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Council briefs: WHA to start charging waitlist fees



Starting this month, people joining the Whistler Housing Authority’s (WHA) purchase waitlist for the first time will have to pay $50.

And, around November 2009, people already on the waitlist will be charged a $25 annual fee.

The $50 and $25 fees are being introduced to help with the administrative costs of processing applications and maintaining the waitlist, said Marla Zucht, WHA general manager, during a presentation to council on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

“It is anticipated that these two new restricted housing participation fees will provide WHA with approximately $25,000 per annum,” said Zucht.

WHA’s purchase waitlist has grown 350 per cent over the last five years. Currently there are 900 applicants on the list. About 264 of these households already own resident restricted housing.

Also at the end of 2008, restricted housing within Whistler reached 4,212 employee beds, an increase of over 150 per cent from 1,663 beds in 1995.

Zucht said with the increased inventory, it is getting harder for WHA staff to make ends meet.

The housing organization currently only has two full time staff and one part time worker.


Whistler gives Pemberton used bridge

Expect to see an old Whistler amenity on a trail in Pemberton sometime soon.

This week, council gave municipal staff the thumbs up to donate the old Village Gate Boulevard Bridge — also known as “Blue Bridge” — to the northern municipality.

“Congratulations Mayor Sturdy, and thank you for your contribution to the Sea to Sky Trail,” said Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed.

“I know this is going to form a piece of that project.”

The steel bridge — used between 1993 and 1995 before a concrete structure was built — has been sitting in the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s impound yard for over a decade. The RMOW hoped to use the bridge elsewhere in town, but still hasn’t found anything.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy has been pushing for the bridge on behalf of his community for sometime. The bridge will be put on a community trail leading to One Mile Creek.

The Village of Pemberton will use the bridge as part of its portion of the Sea to Sky Trail.

According to Iota Construction, a Chilliwack company that supplies many of Whistler’s trail structures, the bridge is worth between $10,000 and $15,000.

Keith Bennett, general manager of resort experience for the RMOW, added that the current salvage price for the 14.5 metre steel bridge would be about $450.


RMOW looking for Valley Trail money

The municipality is applying to another B.C. government program — B.C. Towns for Tomorrow — to get cash for a Valley Trail improvement.

If their application is accepted, the municipality would use the funds to extend the Valley Trail from Spring Creek Drive to Cheakamus Lake Road near Function Junction.

The construction is expected to cost $75,000, although detailed cost estimates have not been done yet, said Frank Savage, planner for the municipality.

B.C. Towns for Tomorrow is a cost-sharing program for communities of 5,000 to 15,000 people. Through the program, the province covers 75 per cent of the costs for projects that address climate change or contribute to community sustainability.

This is not the first time the RMOW has looked to the provincial government to help pay for a Valley Trail extension. Last month, the municipality applied to the province’s LocalMotion program for the funds.

“Municipal funds are tight, and we are looking at opportunities to enhance our funding,” explained Savage.

“This project seems to fit the criteria for the funding source quite well, so we are applying for those funds.


Rethinking Riverside

Several tour operators and camping enthusiasts are not satisfied with Riverside Campground’s decision to remove tent sites next to Fitzsimmons Creek.

Over the past month, the municipality has received five letters from people upset with the decision.

Wrote Peter Brown from Premier International Corporation, a tour group organizer: “If we cannot camp close enough to be able to take a taxi home, restaurants and bars in Whistler will lose our business.”

“Obviously Riverside Resort will lose out as we are not going to change our business model and start staying in hotels. The many activity adventure companies that we use will also see a decline in our business.”

Mayor Ken Melamed said Riverside’s decision is outside of the municipality’s control.

Because the tented sites were on a flood plain, the municipality would need a letter from an engineer confirming they are safe.

“Staff have very serious concerns about people sleeping in harm’s way and have asked throughout the process for assurances from a professional engineer that the land would be safe for the use,” added Bob McPherson, general manager of community life for the municipality. “We have not received it.”


Mayor promotes Whistler 2020 in Ontario

It seems Ontarians wants to know more about Whistler’s community plan.

Several municipalities in the large Canadian province invited Mayor Ken Melamed last week to speak about Whistler 2020, including Guelph and places in the Halton Region.

“The interest is really high and seems to be growing almost like a wave across the country,” said Melamed.

He said each municipality that invited him to speak was already developing their own integrated sustainable community plans.

Melamed said in every case, the municipalities realized the biggest lesson they could learn from Whistler was how to “knit everything together.”

For example, he said, people in Ontario were interested in Whistler’s “interrelations between the ecological systems of the planet, the social systems and how they support the economy.”