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Pemberton boundary extension meeting postponed until June 12

Proposal to include new properties on the table

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UPDATE:As a result of further review of the proposed boundary extension area, the Village of Pemberton is proposing to include an additional 14 properties which are located on the south side of Highway 99 and east of the Industrial Park, in addition to non-First Nations lands within the Mount Currie area.

With this, staff will be postponing its May 29 presentation and recommendations to Council on Boundary Extension to the June 12 meeting, taking place at 5:30pm.

This will allow staff to the opportunity to engage with these residents, provide data/information, and to continue to seek feedback on this initiative.

Further information regarding this proposed Boundary Extension project can be found on our Projects & Initiatives Page at www.pemberton.ca.

ORIGINAL STORY

Residents of Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Electoral Area C turned out in strong numbers at Signal Hill Elementary School on Tuesday, May 15 for an open house on a proposed boundary extension that would see their properties and homes incorporated into the Village of Pemberton (VOP).

Attendees were invited to view a series of informational boards explaining the process and implications, before a presentation by Dan Huang, a Victoria-based planner with Urban Systems.

"This is you deciding how you want to move forward with respect to governance and service delivery," said Huang.

The proposed boundary extension area includes 207 properties with a variety of land uses and owners.

The area has a population of approximately 500 people and would result in a 20-per-cent increase to Pemberton's population, which sits at around 2,574 people.

It includes the Miller Creek Independent Power Project (IPP), the balance of the Rutherford Independent Power Project, Pemberton North Water Service Area, an area surrounding the Industrial Park (non- Lil'wat Nation lands), and an area along Highway 99 that lies between Harrow Road and Pemberton Farm Road East.

Huang explained the boundary extension would establish a "contiguous boundary" for Pemberton, and improve local decision making by keeping more property tax dollars in the community.

The changes, in turn, could lead to more consistent land-use planning and increased revenue to the Village, he explained.

"There is some potential revenue for the Village of Pemberton as a whole, primarily due to the IPPs, but also due to other taxation," said Huang.

It is estimated that approximately $477,000 in tax revenues would be generated for the VOP, around $191,000 of which would come from the IPPs.

In addition, the Village would receive a small communities grant of $25,000.

After accounting for additional potential expenditures—including one full-time VOP staff position that would eventually be needed—the potential annual net revenue increase is approximately $370,500 to the Village.

If successful, Area C's residents would be governed by VOP council, with local government administration and finance transferred from the province and the SLRD to the Village.

According to a frequently-asked-questions handout distributed at the presentation, when it comes to water and sewage, the Village would not be obligated to install infrastructure to newly incorporated Area C homes.

If property owners wanted to receive such services, they could petition the Village to have infrastructure built. This would require borrowing funds, which would be added to their taxes in the form of a Parcel Tax on the affected properties.

Another significant issue with the boundary extension would be the transfer of roads from the province to Pemberton. In all, there are approximately 6.3 kilometres of roads that the Village would have to take responsibility for, many of which are in poor condition.

For most in the audience, the biggest point of interest was how things will affect their pocket books. During his presentation, Huang shared a "sample tax comparison" that showed a breakdown of the taxes Area C residents would face if the expansion is successful.

Based on a sample residential property of $600,000, and using 2017 tax rates, Area C residents would see a property tax increase of approximately $577. (A tax calculator is available on VOP's website to help people determine the impacts on their specific property.)

Properties that have "farm status" would also be significantly affected.

Because of the way provincial legislation is structured, under a boundary extension, houses with farm status will no longer gain the provincial exemption from the Rural Property Tax and would pay the Village Residential Tax Rate.

There are 22 properties within the extension area with farm status.

A $246,000 farmhouse on a $300,000 parcel of land would face a total impact of $827. The Village does, however, have the ability to vary tax rates for farmland, noted Huang.

Area C residents who receive Village water would have some savings when it comes to water. The annual savings would amount to approximately $200 a year.

In a question-and-answer period that followed Huang's presentation, most expressed displeasure with the proposed expansion.

For many, the increased taxation outweighed the potential benefits, with some saying they were happy with the current level of service in interviews with Pique following the presentation.

Nicolette Richer, who lives in Area C, said that the business case simply wasn't made. "I didn't see the business case that (there would be) cash flow to be able to implement any of those amenities they're talking about or upgrade anything. I didn't see any of that tonight."

In an emailed statement to Pique, Alyssa Belter of Plenty Wild Farms said losing the provincial tax exemption on her farm would result in an increase of an estimated $400 a year.

"We strongly identify with the farming community in Area C and think it is detrimental to have Pemberton Valley farmers divided between two different jurisdictions," she said.

"We are worried that, as farmers joining a predominantly residential (area), we will become even more of a minority than we already are at the moment—making it harder for our concerns to be addressed and potentially impacting the viability of our farming operation."

Anne Crowley, who lives in Area C and attended the presentation, spoke in favour of the expansion. She said that the change would give Area C residents more say in where their tax money goes, and is only fair because Area C residents use Pemberton's services and downtown core.

"Pemberton's not a wealthy community, and we need the tax dollars," she said.

When asked where the additional money generated from the boundary expansion should go if the expansion takes place, VOP Mayor Mike Richman said it would be up to the next council to decide. Municipal elections take place on Oct. 20.

"Personally, I would put at least 60 per cent of that to reserves," he said, noting concerns raised about the shape of Area C roads during the question-and-answer period.

The money would allow council to focus on projects it sees value in, he explained, listing recreation facilities and trail improvements as possible examples.

Roads, he said, would be a "potential deal breaker" when it comes to negotiations with the province.

"We would negotiate (for the province) to bring them up to a certain standard, or they would provide us the funds over time to do that," he said.

Exploring a boundary expansion has been a key strategic priority for the Village since 2012, with VOP's current council reaffirming its support in 2015.

That said, VOP is not trying "to sell" the public on the plan, said Richman. "We see potential. We see value. Therefore let's explore it ... and let's decide together."

Questionnaires were available, and community feedback will be put into a Finalized Boundary Extension Study Report that will be presented to council for consideration.

On Tuesday, May 29, council will meet to consider passing a resolution requesting the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to consider the boundary extension.

If council passes the request, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will then begin preparing a potential offer of restructure assistance and order a referendum vote.

Eligible voters within the proposed extension area would then vote whether to join the Village during local government elections on Oct. 20. They would also vote on whether to support the extension concurrently.

Ultimately, it would be up to the minister, who will consider the results, as to whether or not the boundary extension moves forward.

For more information on the boundary expansion and to use the "tax calculator," please visit the VOP's website: www.pemberton.ca/municipal-services/village-projects.

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