Zoning and economic development were the key concerns at the inaugural Pemberton council meeting of 2012, as Mayor Jordan Sturdy welcomed councillors and staff back for the new year.
"A street-front landscaping for the industrial park" bylaw was passed, which will require owners of properties in the industrial park to plant one tree. Property owners will be given a choice of tree species to choose from.
Meanwhile, council passed a recommendation of the creation of 14 small leasehold lots at Pemberton Airport with connections to the taxiway, where there had previously been just two large lots, allowing more variety of access to the airport's facilities.
As well, the mayor reported on the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's two-day "regional district 101 course," an orientation session that had all newly elected councils from the SLRD prioritizing the focus for the region until the next election.
Sturdy said priorities included:
• The need for improved communications between councils and communities, especially important in such a vast and disparate region.
• Rebuilding the foundations of local communities and getting businesses back on track in terms of the current economic climate. Sturdy said the two situations highlighted in this area were from Pemberton — the need for a resolution of the Pemberton-north water issue and the pending Pemberton Meadows Community Centre closure.
• The regional districts' gas tax funding application. With $9.813 million from the Federal-Provincial-Local Government Gas Tax Agreement available for the entire SLRD, and with every community having access to this fund, Sturdy said spending priorities were discussed. The favoured priority was the Sea To Sky Trail.
• Transit — the provincial government was in the middle of a service review including a look at funding. This, said Sturdy, meant the SLRD needed to wait for the province to complete the review.
• Core service review — Sturdy described this as a challenge for any regional district.
• Regional economic development — the participants wanted an SLRD economic development strategy for the Sea to Sky region. Sturdy said it was the one discussion point that had full consensus, with the idea that, "It is no more just Whistler than [the Okanagan] is just Kelowna."
• A regional transferable business licence for the SLRD region. This is a subject not well received in the past, that may get a new life with the new members of the SLRD.
Finally, the issue of Pemberton's economic fortune was discussed. Pemberton Chamber of Commerce president Martin Blundell, who addressed council during public question time, said he was, "concerned about the economy in Pemberton" and wanted council to be more proactive in addressing the challenge.
He suggested a "Buy Local" campaign and a workshop to discuss and foster understanding about the current financial constraints being experienced in Pemberton.
Another member of the public who was present at council, Erin Worrad, agreed. She said, "the struggle for young Pembertonians is especially hard right now. I am running into 20-year-olds at the library looking for work. They want to stay here but they are not sure they can."