News » Whistler

Slow Food Cycle co-organizer running for Pemberton council

Niki van Kerk wants to focus on responsible land use and communication



Pemberton officially has a race for council with the addition of Niki van Kerk to the ballot.

A Village resident known around the valley as a co-organizer with Anna Helmer of the annual Slow Food Cycle Sunday, she wants to focus on "relevant and responsible land use" and making the municipality more accessible for townspeople.

"There's obviously lots of pressures now and there has been for expansion, for development," she said. "We do have a delicate balance of agricultural land, I think it's an important time to get involved and understand the issues around how we grow and do it in a responsible and relevant way."

The owner of a consulting company that does database project management, van Kerk has in recent weeks become known around the community as one of the more prominent voices expressing concern about the Ravens Crest development planned for Pemberton's Hillside area, about four kilometres from the downtown core.

The development proposes to place a major housing neighbourhood there, as well as an independent private school. The land was previously the site of the 2008 Pemberton Music Festival.

Van Kerk has expressed concern in recent weeks about the housing component, and whether it's the right development for Pemberton at the right time.

She has been particularly concerned that the Village has worked to pass an amendment to its Official Community Plan to allow development there at the same time as it's considering a rezoning that will allow the housing neighbourhood to move forward - a move that Village lawmakers have said is normal for such developments.

"I'm concerned it's a bit ahead of its time," she said of the Ravens Crest neighbourhood. "I know we have quite a bit of inventory and I don't want to be too far ahead of the curve. Once I'm at the council table, I'll have more access to staff information and documentation, but that's definitely still my feeling."

As for her own vision for Pemberton, van Kerk wants events like the Slow Food Cycle to be the draw for Pemberton. The August 2011 cycle event brought over 4,000 cyclists to Pemberton as they took in properties and food from throughout the Pemberton Meadows.

"It's the kind of event that really suits Pemberton," she said. "It's healthy, it's fun, it's outdoors, it's free for Pembertonians and it generates a lot of money for the Village and the region.

"I think if we can focus on events or things that are more that kind of a scale, where we're bringing people to Pemberton, the kind of people we're focusing on are potential investors, business owners, that kind of market is good to focus on."

Also running for council is Jessica Turner, who filed her election papers on October 11.