The Village of Pemberton (VOP) council gave staff the go ahead to proceed with the development of a 16-car parking lot on a section of Fougberg Park at its Feb. 5 regular council meeting.
"I never thought I would be taking away green space" from the downtown core, said Mayor Mike Richman, in an interview with Pique following the decision. "We're trying to find a balance between having a walkable, safe downtown, and making sure our business owners—who are big taxpayers in our community—are given the opportunity to succeed as well."
The new parking lot will be located on the back portion of the park and be accessed by John Currie Lane. Green space, which will include the trees near Prospect Street and picnic tables, will be retained.
The idea to develop the land was introduced by VOP staff after members of Pemberton's business community raised concerns about the downtown enhancement plan. Made possible thanks to a $5.3-million federal-government grant, it will consist of essential upgrades to failing infrastructure and key improvements related to roads, sidewalks and street lighting.
The new parking lot will reduce the number of parking spaces that will be lost because of the forthcoming changes, from 25 to nine.
While Councillors Ryan Zant, Leah Noble and Ted Craddock all voted in favour of the parking lot (along with Richman), Coun. Amica Antonelli—a land-use planner with the Resort Municipality of Whistler—dissented, saying that Pemberton doesn't have an issue with lack of parking and the plan hasn't identified any.
In her remarks, Antonelli suggested Rona—which sits next to the park and is in discussion with the VOP to contribute to the construction of the parking—is the real beneficiary of the project.
"I see this as us using our very limited resource—of Village of Pemberton land—to provide a private business with parking," said Antonelli, adding that other uses, such as a daycare, could be more in line with the VOP's needs. "I don't think surface parking is the best use at this time, when we do not have a parking problem," continued Antonelli, who suggested a daycare might be a better option.
In her response to Antonelli's concern, Nikki Gilmore, chief administrative officer for the VOP, said that "the business owners repeatedly expressed that they felt that there was a lack of parking, although it was not quantified or proven that we had a parking issue."
In his interview with Pique, Richman stressed that it's important to look at the big picture, explaining that the downtown enhancement plan is going to transform the downtown core, adding green space and trees and creating a far safer pedestrian experience.
He also said that Rona stands to lose significant parking in front of its business and along Prospect Street, as a sidewalk will be added and cars will be made to parallel park rather than park at an angle as is currently the case (meaning fewer can park in a given area).
"I think it was felt by council that it was a bit of a give and take (with the business community," said Richman, adding that the amount of usage the Fougberg Park gets is "pretty limited."
Staff indicated that the lot—which has already been designed—could go forward in coordination with the downtown enhancement plan, which is slated for completion in fall 2019. A tender for the construction project was awarded earlier in the day to Hazelwood Construction Services Inc. in the amount of $5,870,8587.74.