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Ravens Crest the only spot for GEMS

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When it comes to a location for a GEMS school, there can be only one.
That, at least, was the conclusion from a presentation by a school proponent to a committee of the whole meeting for the Village of Pemberton Tuesday.
Cam McIvor, a former council candidate, delivered a presentation that touched on possible alternate sites for the GEMS school, an international private school with locations throughout the world.
The schools tout themselves as environments with traditional curriculums, but that nevertheless turn out students who go on to prestigious universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Columbia.
The school is proposed for Ravens Crest, a 287-acre property west of Pemberton's town centre that was more recently the site for the Pemberton Festival.
The school is expected take up 18 acres of that land - some of which lies in the Agricultural Land Reserve, an area where agriculture is a priority use.
To get the project built on its proposed property, McIvor has submitted a "non-farm use" application to the Agricultural Land Commission. That application has to first pass muster with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, which will then forward it to the commission if the board approves it.
That's where the project stands today. The SLRD considered the project as early as October, but has since deferred judgment for various reasons, among them whether the proponents have considered any properties besides the current one.
SLRD vice-chair Susie Gimse told McIvor at the board's Dec. 16 meeting that the ALC wouldn't even look at McIvor's non-farm use application until he had studied alternate sites.
McIvor reported to the Village of Pemberton on that study Tuesday and effectively told the board that no other sites are available for the GEMS school's purposes.
"We wanted to make sure we didn't leave any stone unturned, but topography is very limited out there," McIvor told village council.
McIvor said in his presentation that the GEMS school will need at least 18 acres - and that doesn't include agricultural and equestrian areas, both of them activities that proponents hope to incorporate into the school. It also needs a "relatively flat" topography with a less than six per cent grade. He also wants it to be less than five kilometres from the Pemberton core.
Among alternate sites, the study looked at Pemberton's Benchlands, a residential area that lies just above Pemberton's downtown core and the start of the Pemberton Meadows Road. The study determined that a master plan for the Benchlands does not provide enough area for a school site and the site has a ground slope of 15 per cent.
Other alternate sites included the Upper Ravens Crest area, which only has 12 acres of flat topography and no agricultural or equestrian uses available to it.
The Benchlands and a rock quarry near the Ravens Crest site were the only ones that came close to meeting all the requirements for a GEMS school - but ultimately, only the current Ravens Crest property was appropriate for the project. No other sites could be found to satisfy all its needs.
Gimse, who initially put forward a motion at the SLRD to defer judgment on the project until alternate sites could be examined, commended McIvor on his presentation.

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