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Pemberton election a vote on expansion

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With less than two months to go before an election in Pemberton, it’s beginning to look like a vote on expansion.

The Village of Pemberton has undergone a period of massive change under the current council, which includes two members who have confirmed their candidacy in the upcoming election.

Incumbent Mayor Jordan Sturdy has committed to running for a second term and he has a challenger in Councilor David MacKenzie, who also serves as chairman of Tourism Pemberton.

Together they have overseen events and developments such as the arrival of the Pemberton Festival, arguably the biggest event in the town’s history, which brought 40,000 people to Pemberton.

Though they have overseen this period together, the race for mayor has nevertheless set two priorities against one another — Sturdy feels it’s important to revisit the community’s identity in his next term, while MacKenzie has made it a priority to increase the village’s population.

They aren’t, however, the only ones who’ve committed to running.

Pemberton resident Ted Craddock, who previously served on the councils of Squamish and Fort Nelson when he lived in those communities, intends to seek election in November, but he has not yet decided whether to run for mayor or council.

“I’m considering my options right now,” he said in an interview with Pique . “I’m basically looking to see if the community is looking for somebody new on council or mayor, and if I’ve got support for either position.”

Craddock moved to Pemberton four years ago when his wife took a position as principal of Signal Hill Elementary School. For his own part, he’s a retired real estate developer who spent two terms on the school board in Fort Nelson, one term on its council and one term as a regional district director. He also spent five years on Squamish council.

“I think we had a number of issues that are similar to what’s come up in Pemberton,” he said. “We have some land use requirements, building of the industrial park…. We want to make sure that our downtown core grows and looks like a new age area, but still keep in mind that we’re a nice, easygoing community where you can walk to all communities.”

If elected, he feels it’s time to revisit Pemberton’s Official Community Plan. ”I really believe that people in the community need to get together in public meetings and set a clear picture of what they want to see the community develop into,” Craddock said.

Beyond these three, there is not a clear picture of who will be seeking election in November. Councillor Jennie Helmer has confirmed she will not seek re-election, while two-term Councilor Mark Blundell has deferred his decision to a later date.

Dave Walden, currently the representative for Pemberton and chairman on the Howe Sound Board of Education, confirmed in an interview that he will be running again.

The nomination period officially runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 10 at 4 p.m.

All candidates, mayor or otherwise, will be running at the same time as a referendum that will decide an important part of Pemberton’s future.

For months, the Village of Pemberton has been looking into a proposal to expand its boundaries. The current proposal could see the VOP incorporate 20 new areas that lie within Electoral Area C of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. They include the Rutherford Creek Power Plant along Highway 99; residential properties located along Airport Road between Highway 99 and the Pemberton Airport; and the Pemberton Creek watershed, an area the VOP is considering for a new power plant.

It’s estimated that the boundary expansion could bring around $200,000 in yearly tax revenue to a “tax poor” community.

Some, however, have criticized the boundary expansion, saying that the process is being moved along too fast.

Pemberton resident Dave Hobson, for example, said in a letter to council that the Sub-Regional Planning Study made flawed predictions when it said Pemberton will swell to 11,700 inhabitants in 2026.

He said those projections are a “stab in the dark” and based on a time when there was little progress in creating employee-restricted housing in Whistler.

The boundary expansion proposal will go to a vote on Nov. 15, the same day as the civic elections.

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