With the deadline looming for Whistler’s temporary commercial use permits (TCUPs) bylaw, VANOC’s accommodation strategy is again an uncertain venture.
Some eyeballs are on Squamish, where VANOC recently issued a request for proposals regarding cruise ship accommodations.
“With respect to temporary accommodations during the Olympic period, I’m not aware of any recent discussions between VANOC and the District of Squamish,” said Mayor Greg Gardner. “However, Squamish’s history with the Olympic Games has been probably, in my mind, the most supportive of communities in B.C., at least the most supportive of non-venue communities. And we would welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively on that issue.”
VANOC says it needs to secure accommodation by February. But with Whistler council delaying approval of the TCUPs bylaw until late in January, VANOC may need to look elsewhere for some accommodation.
Meanwhile, Squamish doesn’t have a lot of district-owned land to offer up, said Gardner. Both he and long-time Councillor Corinne Lonsdale mentioned the use of temporary permits, though there are complications involved, not least the time it would take to navigate the approval process.
“I know there are opportunities in various areas,” said Lonsdale, “and we have a couple landowners who have looked at doing something, but the land is designated residential. Our residential (zoning) doesn’t permit trailers. So temporary permits, which are for two years, cannot be put in place in a residential zone. It’s not to say that we can’t, because we surely can. But we would have to change the zoning.”
Organizers estimate some 5,000-7,000 workers and volunteers will be active in the corridor during the Games. It’s hoped that approximately 1,500 of those will be residents of the corridor. VANOC is still looking for accommodation for others, with the high cost of hotel rooms in the corridor part of the problem.
The cruise ship RFP, which closes Jan. 9, is for two vessels that would house 500 workers and dock at Squamish Terminals.
As with the accommodations situation, the cruise ship idea has yet to reach the council floor, though Gardner has met with VANOC representatives by virtue of his work in the Squamish Olympic Coordinating Committee (SOCC), which was struck last spring.
Lonsdale said the idea needs work, and that VANOC has looked not only at Squamish Terminals, but also Darrell Bay and the salt dock off the lands managed by Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation (SODC).
“That’s an area we would look to to see if it’s viable for the future for marine operations, whether its pocket cruise ships or whatever,” said Lonsdale. “I would say there’s an opportunity for us. But we must be cautious. Anything we do, we will incur debt, and whenever we do that, the taxpayers have to foot the bill, at least for a time until revenue starts coming in.”
The cruise ship development marks a ripening of the relationship between Squamish and VANOC, which some prominent players, like erstwhile Counillor Mike Jenson, have lamented.
Under the auspices of the SOCC, Gardner has met a half dozen times with VANOC representatives, usually in person. Also facilitating communication between the two entities is Dan Doyle, the newly appointed liaison between Squamish and VANOC.
“There has been some frustration in Squamish with respect to dealings around the 2010 Games,” said Gardner. “I think part of that arises because Squamish was so far out in front of the curve. Some of the issues just addressed now are issues Squamish was alive to in 2002 and 2003. VANOC has quite appropriately been focused on putting infrastructure in place to make the Games happen, and I’m talking about venues, primarily.”
And so the committee was struck to mop up that frustration. Originally, it also included former Mayor Ian Sutherland and former Deputy Administrator Brent Leigh. However, it now includes Gardner, Director of Recreation Bob Kusch and CAO Kim Anema.
Other Squamish infrastructure involved in the Olympics includes the RCMP, fire department, emergency program, hospital and a few private facilites.