SLRD obstructing boundary expansion, says Pemberton mayor

One part of the Sunstone Ridge property

The Village of Pemberton is engaged in an ongoing struggle to gain more tax revenue. It’s trying to solve the problem by expanding its boundaries to incorporate more properties including the possible Sunstone Ridge neighbourhood, located on the Pemberton Hillside.

The issue has dragged on for as long as I’ve been covering Pemberton and this story is just the latest salvo.

Regional district looking for more dialogue on variety of issues

By Jesse Ferreras, Pique Newsmagazine

December 2, 2010

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is hindering Pemberton’s efforts to expand its boundaries, Mayor Jordan Sturdy said last week.

Sturdy said the regional district is obstructing efforts to amalgamate areas that are currently under SLRD jurisdiction within the Village of Pemberton boundaries.

His words came three days after Pemberton circulated a letter at the Nov. 22 SLRD board meeting that alleged the regional district had told the Ministry of Community and Rural Development that it hadn’t had any communication with Pemberton about its expansion.

“During recent discussions with the Ministry we were surprised and disappointed to learn that Administration of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) represented to Ministry staff that the Village of Pemberton had not communicated with the Regional District Board or staff with respect to relevant issues involving the boundary extension application and impacts to the SLRD,” the letter read.

“We understand that the VoP Administrator has voiced his displeasure to the SLRD CAO however, given the significance of this event we felt it important to express the same concern to the Regional Board Chair and Directors.”

Speaking to Pique last week, Sturdy said the regional district’s actions are obstructive.

“The (Pemberton) council is very concerned about this,” he said. “That’s why the council almost demanded that we write a letter to the regional board and express our concern with this kind of activity, because it does mean it’s being obstructed.”

Pemberton’s boundary expansion, whose approval now rests with a provincial government that’s mired in a leadership race, is expected to see various parcels of land incorporated into the village from Area C of the regional district.

That includes the Rutherford Creek Power Plant on Highway 99, a property that could bring $517,000 in annual property taxes to Pemberton coffers; the Hillside area, which is slated for development of the Sunstone Ridge neighbourhood on 400 hectares, a property that could include the much-discussed GEMS school; and various properties located along Airport Road.

The taxes for these properties currently go to the province but would go to the Village of Pemberton if they are brought within Pemberton’s boundaries.

The proposal has met resistance at the SLRD since it was first referred to them in 2008, an action that Sturdy claims was taken because Pemberton is a “good neighbour” to the regional district.

The SLRD later contracted Sussex Consultants Ltd. to examine financial impacts the expansion could have on the regional district. Sussex looked at a report prepared for Pemberton by Stantec Consulting and determined that the regional district would lose $13,000 due to boundary expansion, money it would have to make up by either cutting spending by the same amount or raising taxes to make up the loss.

In an e-mailed response, SLRD Administrator Paul Edgington said he communicated to the Ministry of Community and Rural Development that there had “not been much” in the way of dialogue between Pemberton and the regional district with regard to various issues raised in the Sussex report.

Among other issues, Edgington wants more discussion on the impacts of a tax cap on properties where independent power producers are located; on transitional compensation to the SLRD as the financial impact of the expansion could be in excess of 10 per cent of funding for some services.

He also wants more discussion on how the Ministry would treat some Local Service Areas, as the expansion could impact cost sharing for them; how Pemberton and District TV Rebroadcast Service might be addressed; and the issue of the SLRD’s amenity agreement with Rutherford Creek Power.

“I note in reading the letter, although there was mention of the Rutherford Creek Power agreement there is no mention of the other four points mentioned above,” Edgington wrote in his e-mail.

“Since the Monday meeting, I have taken steps to have the cost impacts recalculated by Sussex Consulting to determine the impact based upon 2010 budgets. This work will require answers to (the points) above. The Village of Pemberton and the Ministry have been requested to provide this information.”

For its part, Pemberton has addressed some of the issues raised in the Sussex report. At an Oct. 5 council meeting, Pemberton councillors voted to leave a $40,000 amenity fee from the Rutherford Creek power plant with the SLRD, and to provide transitional payments to the regional district to help mitigate the financial impacts of expansion.

The decision on expansion ultimately rests with the provincial cabinet, which must approve it through an order-in-council.

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About jesseferreras

Sea to Sky-based journalist. Snowboarder, cyclist, cinephile, bon vivant.
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