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Pemberton Festival may need to move

Sturdy disagrees with ALC assertion that festival ‘debilitates’ agricultural land

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The provincial Agricultural Land Commission believes the three-day Pemberton Festival “debilitates” the quality of the agricultural land it was held on and organizers should find a new site for the festival.

But Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, himself a farmer, disagrees with the ALC.

“I don’t see permanent implications for the viability of that agricultural land,” Sturdy said.

The ALC, which governs the use of land in the Agricultural Land Reserve, areas where farming is a priority use, issued a non-farm use permit on March 12 to allow this year’s inaugural festival. But the permit was only for 2008.

The ALC calls the site, located on Highway 99 about four kilometres east of the Village of Pemberton town centre “some of the best agricultural land in the province.”

When asked about the ALC’s reluctance to allow the Pemberton Festival on the same lands next year, Colin Fry, the executive director of the ALC, firmly corrected the wording of Pique ’s questions.

“I’ll correct one of the words you used, the commission is ‘reluctant’ to allow it,” he said. “The commission has specifically refused it. There’s no reluctance.”

The ALC also expressed disappointment that it had not been more closely involved in planning.

Fry said the ALC received the application after months of dialogue among various parties, but none with the commission.

“The commission received the application very late in the day,” he said. “At the point we did, we were under pressure to deal with it quickly to determine if it was going to be allowed so that ongoing planning could continue.”

Normally used as a hay field, the site has been designated as Class 1 and 2 agricultural capability under the Canada Land Inventory, according to minutes from the March 12 meeting of the ALC.

That means it has no or very slight limitations to its use for production of agricultural crops, according to the minutes.

The ALC is concerned that the long term use of the site as a festival venue could “debilitate” the quality of the land and that it is “simply not the place to hold such an event.” It has suggested that organizers find a non-agricultural site to hold the festival in future.

“The festival is more appropriately suited to be located outside the ALR,” Fry said. “The long term use of this festival was not in tune with the mandate to use the site as agricultural land.”

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