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Pemberton heli-ski operator’s permit delayed

Equality of process cited as basis for mayor's amendment



By Cindy Filipenko

Tyler Freed had been expecting his heli-skiing company’s temporary use permit to be granted by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. However, an amendment from Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy has stalled the Pemberton tourism operator’s application.

Freed, reached by phone the next day, was clearly flummoxed by what had occurred at Monday’s SLRD meeting.

“I’m not sure what the VOP representative objected to,” said Freed. “The VOP has the most to benefit.

“I went away thinking I want to stay positive. There are a number of things that need to be recognized for Coast Range Heli-Skiing. We’re a local employer. We offer a great tourism product that brings a lot of people up here for the first time. We’re a socially responsible company, and the SLRD has acknowledged that.”

Freed said he felt that the extra process would send a negative message to other prospective operators.

“I see Tourism Pemberton is seeking funding from the VOP to help grow tourism. It just seems so counterproductive to put up these hurdles or barriers,” said Freed.

“We have to put our individual differences aside and focus on the greater good.”

At the Oct. 30 SLRD board meeting, Sturdy moved that the N’Quatqua and Lil’wat First Nations and the Village of Pemberton be solicited for comment before a decision is made regarding Coast Range’s application. The amendment passed 5 to 4.

Freed had appeared before the VOP mayor and council two weeks earlier to explain his company’s need for a temporary use permit to allow a staging area in the Birkenhead until the company’s application for Crown land could be processed.

Electoral Area C director Susie Gimse, whose jurisdiction encompasses the proposed staging area, pointed out to Sturdy that the VOP had received a delegation pertaining to the temporary use permit. Director Phil Oakley of Bralorne noted that this was not Coast Range’s first permit and that soliciting comment constituted a new process.

The board called on Freed to clarify his company’s history and activities.

“We have been operating in that area for seven years,” said Freed. “We have applied for Crown land. Referrals have gone out. With the help of the SLRD we have tried our best to accommodate the situation. We have dramatically altered our operations.

“We’re the only operator in that area that has come to the community to ask for their comment.”

He acknowledged that there were issues between the VOP and Coast Range pertaining to airport usage, but said that was an issue he wanted to deal with separately.

“If there is an issue with the airport I would like to sit down with VOP and come out with something that works for us,” he said. “I see the current issue in Birken is with the residents and I think we have gone down that road.”

Director Oakley said that he was satisfied that Freed had done everything that was requested of him and he felt it was “late in the game” to have Coast Range subject to last minute amendments.

“There’s a lot of helicopter activity in the valley these days that we have no control over. The one benefit to a temporary use permit is that it gave us some ability to request certain things form the operator and that is to mitigate impact on the community. I know in this case that the operators have gone to great lengths to reduce noise and impacts on my community,” said Gimse. “I support moving ahead.”

Sturdy remained unmoved by his fellow directors’ comments and cited equal process as the issue.

“I don’t think we can be selective — that one TUP requires referrals from First Nations and not another,” he said. “It’s pretty darned inconsistent”

The other temporary use permit he was referring to was an application pertaining to Terrane Construction’s topsoil operation. Earlier in the meeting it had been suggested that comment from the Lil’wat Nation be solicited in that situation, as the Mt. Currie band had initiated a complaint that resulted in the company’s activities being suspended.

To take advantage of the full heli-skiing season, Coast Range’s temporary use permit will have to be in place by early December.