By Andru McCracken

The Village of Valemount held their regularly scheduled council meeting on May 26. The meeting was presided over by Mayor Owen Torgerson, councilors Hollie Blanchette, Pete Pearson, Donny MacLean and Sheri Gee were in attendance at a virtual meeting. Staff member CAO Wayne Robinson was also present.

Backyard chickens
A survey about backyard chickens came back positive: many residents want to see backyard chickens allowed in the village. Council tabled the topic of Backyard Chickens “until the community is further engaged with respect to permitted land uses during the review and revision of the Village of Valemount Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaws.”

Office Reopens
Staff updated council on the opening of the village office on June 1.

Hollie Blanchette asked whether the parks and washrooms in the parks would reopen at the same time.

“In order to have public washrooms we would have to have a fairly rigorous cleaning regime,” said Robinson.

He said that might mean using public works staff or a contractor. He is hoping parks will be open at the beginning of July at the latest.

Blanchette said she experienced the importance of the issue while out of town.

“We were away this week and we had that issue, there is no place to go,” said Blanchette.

Business Facade Improvement Program
The Facade improvement program run by the Northern Development Initiative Trust will not require 50% matching funds from the business. Council applied for about $8850.51 to help local businesses spruce up their look.

“It’s nice to see this year’s change, not requiring 50% matching funds. That will help businesses access this program,” said Pearson.

Regional Business Liaison
Council supported an application by Community Futures for a grant to provide business advice from an advisor based in Prince George. The position would be funded externally 100%.

Village website
A company called Creative Inc. won the bid to remake the Village of Valemount’s Website for under $20,000.

Official Community Plan
Council moved that MVH Urban Planning and Design Inc. be awarded the contract for the Village of Valemount Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw, with a budget not to exceed $140,000.

“It’s nice to see this getting underway,” said Pearson.

Embiggening patios
Council approved changes to make it easier for drinking establishments to expand their patios with Liquor Board approval.

“We’re asking council to provide a blanket approval for all liquor primary establishments within our jurisdiction. This would allow for any liquor primary establishment to expand their patio boundaries on their own lot to create an outdoor space,” read the staff report.

“To allow them to achieve social distancing but not to exceed the number of patrons they would normally be allowed. It’s a way to help them provide service to the maximum number of people they would normally be permitted to.

“I think this is a smart way of going,” said Pearson.

Council gave the blanket approval.

Torgerson said it’s a temporary measure ending on October 31.

Celebrating Graduates
Council agreed to allow the Valemount Secondary School to use the main Village entry sign and downtown light posts to display portraits of graduates to help celebrate the grads of 2020.

Water Supply and Regs
Council gave three readings to a new water supply and regulation bylaw that will see varying degrees of water restrictions depending on the situation.

“[…] more comprehensive water restrictions will further aid the Village in conserving water, particularly during times of increased demand, decreased supply or in case of an emergency situation,” said staff.

It adds Watering Violations to municipal offences. Depending on the watering restrictions, fines range from $50 to $400. See story P7.

Council Reports
During her verbal report Blanchette implored people to continue to abide by the rules for COVID-19.

“Stay at home, stay local, only go out when you have to. Social distance is still key, and wash and wash and wash,” she said. “I’ve noticed at the grocery store since the may long weekend everyone has just forgotten this is going on. Please don’t butt by people, follow the lines.”

“Words to live by,” said Torgerson.

Mixed messages and local tourism
Pearson said Tourism Valemount is currently surveying local hospitality to see if they can safely house or feed Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion workers.

“It’s an interesting time for a tourism committee. Our job is to promote tourism; it’s pretty hard to promote tourism when you are telling people, ‘Don’t come,’” he said.

Questions abound for local operators.
“Is it okay to come and use the bike park? Are the rec sites open?” asked Pearson. “It makes it really interesting trying to promote our area without encouraging people to come.”

He said he’d like to work with council to have a united front and to answer questions of usage beyond the Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry’s recommendations.

Torgerson said he could sense the frustration.

He said he could understand why people with very populated backyards wanted to come to Valemount.

“Somebody else’s backyard is pretty appealing when there are 60,000 in your own,” said Torgerson.

Pearson noted the number of reservations for BC Provincial Parks crashed the system.