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Council briefs: A new look at nonconforming space



Municipal Hall is taking another step to crack down on illegal crawlspaces.

On Monday, Nov. 3 council gave municipal staff permission to launch a pilot program that would calculate home densities differently. The idea is to measure by volume, instead of floor area.

The new equation was designed by the Canadian Home Builders Association’s Whistler chapter to deal with the large number of “non conforming spaces” in Whistler.

“Making a major change to a zoning bylaw like this can lead to unintended consequences, and we do want to spend some time looking at these things before we jump in with two feet,” said Bob MacPherson, general manager of community life, explaining why the pilot program was set until September 2012.

Homeowners can legalize their properties if they get a new building permit based on a volume not floor space, explained MacPherson.

“There have been discussions that we might want to find someway to streamline those applications and to encourage them, but we have not gone too far with that at this point,” he said.

MacPherson added that the pilot program probably will not drastically change Whistler’s property tax revenue.

Illegal crawl spaces were an issue the current council wanted to tackle within their term, which ends this month.

“It is not quite done, but it is largely there,” commented Mayor Ken Melamed, adding that with the new formula, bed unit calculations will have to be reworked.

A statutory public hearing will be scheduled.


Councillor wants to talk about the next budget

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, who is running for re-election, wants to get the budget process rolling early this year.

“Last year was an unfortunate situation, and I am going beyond just the public meeting at the GLC,” said Zeilder, referring to the public backlash after the municipality announced property taxes would increase.

“The dynamic we had at this table was that we were feeling constantly pushed, against the wall and that there was no more time to make decisions. It was a shambles, and I really want to see that that does not happen this time around.”

During last week’s council meeting, Zeidler suggested that a workshop be set up as soon as the new council is elected to discuss the budget.

Other councillors around the table, as well as Mayor Ken Melamed, suggested that a community input session also be scheduled.

“That way, council is not springing to the public with all these formed thoughts about where they are going with the budget, and the public is in on the discussion right at the beginning,” said Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

Municipal staff said they will look into arranging the meetings.


Electric cars now OK for Whistler roads, but not Highway 99

Watch out for more electrical cars purring along Whistler’s streets in the near future.

Council gave first, second and third reading to a new bylaw that allows zero emission vehicles throughout the municipality with speed limits up to 50 kilometres per hour.

The cars cannot drive on Highway 99, since that is Ministry of Transportation jurisdiction. But they will be able to cross the highway.

“It is a small step, to be honest, but it is a step that shows leadership,” said Ted Battison, manager of sustainability initiatives for the municipality.

“It is at no cost to the municipality. It is an easy thing to do, and it gives us more choice for our fleet. It also opens the door for modest changes to other existing fleets in this town to take advantage of this opportunity.”

The only area in Whistler where the vehicles can really be used is around the village and Lost Lake area, as well as through to Blueberry Hill and Alta Vista.

Battison said he expects hotels and the municipality are the two groups who can really take advantage of the change.

“I am glad to see we found a way to move in this direction, even if it is gently,” said Councillor Tim Wake.


Council meetings moved to Tuesdays

Council meetings will soon be changed to Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m., from Mondays at 6:30 p.m.

The change, which will come into play in the New Year, will give municipal staff and council more time to prepare for the meetings. Both Squamish and Pemberton councils already meet on Tuesdays.