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Signal Hill development delayed again

Pemberton council stalls at fourth reading; provincial approval required



A massive development planned for Pemberton just missed its last hurdle at the municipal level after council decided to defer it at its March 16 meeting.

The Signal Hill neighbourhood, planned for a property adjacent to Signal Hill Elementary School, is expected to bring just under 300 units of housing to Pemberton but council has yet to pass the bylaws required to build it.

Fourth reading of the bylaws was scheduled for this week but council decided to wait on an approval from B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation. The individual responsible for giving ministry approval is currently on vacation and council does not meet again until April.

That has developer Bruce van Mook disappointed but he hopes that he can get the necessary signature soon and that council can hold a special meeting later this month to approve the bylaws needed to build Signal Hill.

"For us it's not an issue of anger," van Mook said in an interview. "It's disappointing for sure but we're not angry or anything. We're just going to continue to work towards a positive resolution here."

However a signature may not be the only thing that Signal Hill needs to move forward. As Pique was speaking to van Mook, council was holding an in camera meeting where they may have discussed a new arrangement around the development's contributions to the community.

On top of building the development itself, van Mook and partner Garth Phare are expected to contribute up to $2.15 million to pay for improvements to a dyke on the property; a bridge over Pemberton Creek; gift a tract of land to the Village of Pemberton that could be used for affordable housing; and turn a 1.4 acre piece of land into a community garden.

The developers initially expected the contributions to come in place of a Community Amenity Charge that van Mook estimates could cost them $2 million.

Both are amenable to paying the $2.15 million but van Mook said that he received an e-mail after the bylaws got third reading indicating that the Village of Pemberton may want them to pay something different.

He went on to say that the development's goal posts were "completely removed" after that e-mail and worried that Signal Hill could die if they're asked to contribute any more.

"That's the kind of stuff that impacts development opportunities," he said. "What we're dealing with right now, potentially, is the moving of the goal posts and our rebuttal to that moving of the goal posts is that this is where we are, and we cannot go any further.

"The development could die on the line if there's not agreement there and I'm standing here not knowing if that's going to happen or not."

The Community Amenity Charge is a voluntary contribution that can be applied to developments that require subdivision. The previous Pemberton council brought it in at a time when demand for more recreational amenities was high. Thus far the charge has not been applied to a single development.

Councillor Lisa Ames previously brought a motion forward to consider rescinding the Community Amenity Charge and replace it with a Density Bonusing Bylaw as part of Pemberton's review of its Official Community Plan.

Density bonusing generally allows developments to have densities that exceed permitted Floor Area Ratios in exchange for community amenities.

Sheena Fraser, manager of administrative services at the Village of Pemberton, said that council did not rise with report from the in camera meeting and as such can't discuss what happened there. She said, however, that Fourth Reading would be dealt with at the next council meeting.



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