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Pemberton restricts office space in industrial park

Majority of council wants to concentrate business in downtown core

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The Village of Pemberton moved to take office and professional uses out of its industrial park last week after striking those uses from proposed bylaw amendments.

Bylaw 609, 2008, which would amend the VOP’s Official Community Plan, stated at second reading that offices should be permitted in the park to allow for a “mix of business activity” in the site located east of the Village of Pemberton.

Bylaw 610, 2008, meanwhile, which would amend Zoning Bylaw No. 466, called for a variety of uses in the park including business and professional offices, so long as they didn’t rely on a “continuous flow of customers” to generate business.

A sub-section of that bylaw also stated that medical, dental, real estate, accounting or other offices relying on a consistent flow of clients should not be located in the industrial zone.

The bylaws ultimately passed second reading, but without the provisions that would allow office and professional use.

Michael Rosen, a planning consultant with the Village of Pemberton, said the wording about a “continuous flow of customers” created problems in the bylaw because it could be interpreted any number of ways, despite the fact that that’s the wording used in a bylaw in the District of Squamish.

“That’s a very difficult clause for a business license inspector… to actually interpret,” Rosen said. “My gut feeling is that that’s going to create a very, very difficult clause for staff to work with because there’s a judgment call that needs to be there.”

VOP staff ultimately recommended that council strike that wording from Bylaw 610, along with the professional and office space components of both bylaws, according to an Aug. 12 memo.

That recommendation prompted a lengthy discussion among councillors that saw all but two support the staff recommendation.

Mayor Jordan Sturdy and Councillor David MacKenzie were the lone voices opposing the recommendation.

MacKenzie, the more vocal of the two, said council isn’t listening to constituents who want to have office space in the industrial park.

“I haven’t heard anyone outside of council opposed to office use,” he said. “I think that the business community has made it pretty clear, the industrial park owners have made it pretty clear as well and I don’t understand why we’re not following the direction of what their wishes are.”

MacKenzie also wondered whether the VOP would be evicting companies that have offices in the industrial park already.

Councillor Kirsten McLeod said she hopes more industrial businesses will move to Pemberton in the future, but added that they’ll need a location to move to.

“In a study we just completed, it actually identified that we have limited industrial land available,” she said. “We’ve also been told by various community groups, including real estate agents and various other people, that we have a lot of commercial space available… but we have very limited industrial space.”

McLeod added that it does not work well when an office space is placed next to an industrial space.

“You cannot have a professional office next to a welding company that’s welding all day long,” she said. “It’s an industrial park, that’s what it is and I’d like to see it maintained as that and I think this is the only way we can.”

The idea that industry is coming to Pemberton isn’t a realistic one for Cam McIvor, part owner of a company that has helped to develop the industrial park.

He said in an interview with Pique that office and professional use is needed in the park because there isn’t a lot of industry moving to Pemberton.

“Industry itself is not a significant contributor to Pemberton’s economy right now,” he said. “There is some industry, there’s welding out here and a little bit of heavier industry, however most real, large-scale industry has moved to China.

“Most industrial parks or business parks in the province allow business and professional offices to exist.”

McIvor also said that people in the VOP want to see trail networks and new recreation facilities — in order to do that, he said the community has to look at its “revenue side” to achieve those goals.

Sturdy said council voted against the bylaws because it is already making amendments to its Official Community Plan and other bylaws regarding two other commercial areas along the highway and in the Portage Road area.

He said councillors are concerned that development of the Portage Road area is already taking vibrancy away from its downtown core.

“What we want to try and create downtown is an interesting, vibrant, walkable community,” Sturdy said. “The more we sort of spread out to the highway and along the highway, the more we’re sacrificing the vibrancy in the downtown core.

“Council made a decision to limit the office use in the industrial park, because they felt that it was important to maintain or encourage those office businesses to locate in the downtown core, because it’s those people there, it’s that activity there, it’s that vibrancy created when you have density.”

He noted, however, that he himself supported having office and professional uses in the industrial park.

“I thought the idea of the businesses that require walk-by traffic should be located in the downtown core,” Sturdy said. “If an office doesn’t require walk-by traffic, then I felt that it was a reasonable compromise to allow those businesses to locate the industrial park.”

Bylaw 610 will now go to a public hearing on Sept. 10. Sturdy said the meeting will give the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed bylaw amendments. From there, it could go to third reading, but Sturdy said the bylaw is still “months away.”