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Pemberton, SLRD looking to restructure boundaries

But process could be hamstrung if regional growth strategy not resolved



Sea to Sky's governance map could change in the coming years as members of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District look to adjust their administration and boundaries.

A governance and boundary review, now in its preliminary stages, is looking at the roles and responsibilities of municipalities, the regional district and First Nations band councils. There is hunger for change within the regional district, with Pemberton in particular hoping the review will help it clarify the town's future.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, who was a strong advocate of the Village of Pemberton's expansion into 20 new areas in late 2008, said the governance and boundary review is a "number one priority" for the regional district and that it will apply to the entirety of the SLRD once it gets going.

"This is a boundaries and governance review for the whole of the SLRD," he said. "It's to revisit the regional district and its role and its structure to set ourselves up for the future, for the next 25 years."

Russ Oakley, chair of the SLRD board and the representative for Electoral Area A, confirmed that while there's a desire to review governance and boundaries discussions could be stalled because the provincial government wants the regional district to resolve the logjam on the regional growth strategy.

The strategy, which aims to compact SLRD areas into sustainable, walkable communities, is the subject of a dispute between Whistler and Squamish.

"It's pretty hard to discuss when there's nothing to discuss," Oakley said. "We're not going to waste a lot of time doing things that aren't going to proceed."

The SLRD board is made up of representatives from local governments throughout the region and each gets a vote on land use in each other's boundaries. The board has representatives from the District of Squamish, the Village of Pemberton, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the District of Lillooet. The rest of the board includes representatives for unincorporated areas that have been divided into A, B, C and D.

Electoral Area A includes the communities of Gold Bridge and Bralorne. Electoral Area B is closer to Lillooet and includes communities such as Seton, Pavilion, Bridge River and Duffey Lake.

Electoral Area C is close to Pemberton and includes the Meadows, the Mount Currie to D'Arcy corridor and areas between Whistler and Pemberton. Electoral Area D is just outside Squamish and includes areas such as Furry Creek, Britannia Beach and both Pinecrest Estates and Black Tusk Village.

In Pemberton's case, issues identified could include its ability to make land use decisions on parcels directly adjacent to village boundaries. Pemberton has repeatedly come up against opposition from Whistler as it works to develop a GEMS private school on a parcel in Area C. Whistler has consistently raised issues that it could impact the price of housing within the valley.

Ultimately Sturdy said there's potential for the Village of Pemberton to expand into new parcels that are currently part of Area C. Those areas include the Pemberton Meadows, Ivey Lake and Owl Ridge.

"The challenge lies in that regional representatives make decisions on local issues," he said. "There is, in many cases, no or minimal accountability to the electorate.

"I find myself voting on issues that are in Britannia Beach or in Upper Squamish Valley or in Pavilion and I am not accountable to those people... other than in a philosophical way.

"My role in the regional district is to look after the interests of the greater good, but I'm not intimate with the issues."