After a lengthy discussion, council endorsed draft guidelines for developers wanting to build employee housing in Whistler at its Dec. 5 meeting.
The recommendation to support employee housing developments from the private sector was one of seven to arise from the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing, and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) thinks it could add 500 new beds over the next five years.
"There has been significant interest by private landowners and developers in this initiative, and staff feels that it's prudent to establish guidelines that we're able to use for targeting our objectives and evaluating these proposals," said director of planning Mike Kirkegaard in a presentation to council.
The guidelines — 20 in all — were prepared based on research from the task force and existing policies in the Official Community Plan, and will be used by staff to evaluate proposals from developers before they come to council.
In part, the guidelines state that all projects be 100-per-cent rental, employee housing with occupancy and rent restrictions (set at less than unrestricted market rents for comparable housing).
The last point prompted some concerns from the council table about ensuring the rents stay affordable.
"I would like stronger language in there, something a little bit more prescriptive, to say not that it's just below market, because market can get insane," said Councillor Jen Ford.
Acting Mayor Jack Crompton wondered if the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's affordability criteria — which lays out affordable rents for dozens of communities across the country — could be useful.
But in the case of this recommendation, the RMOW must find a balance between affordability and viability for private developers, said Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey.
"If the project is not viable from a developer's perspective, they're not going to do it as a good gesture for the community, they have to run their businesses, so that's where we're trying to find that balance, where it becomes viable economically and is affordable for potential tenants," Furey said, adding that council will have a chance to review each proposal as they come forward.
"They're obviously going to be different scenarios depending on where they're located, etc.," he said. "These are guidelines — they're not how every project will be. There's a lot more specification (that) will go into the council report when we bring it forward."
The draft guidelines can be found in the Dec. 5 council package starting on page 123: www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov/council/meeting-agendas-and-minutes.
To view the full discussion head to www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov/council/watch-council-meetings.
LILLOOET CONTRACT CLAUSE SPARKS QUESTION IN WHISTLER
A concerning clause in a municipal contract in Lillooet has made headlines as of late, prompting some online discussion among Whistlerites.
The clause stated that the District of Lillooet would reimburse former chief administrator Grant Loyer for legal fees for defamation claims filed in the course of his duties for the town.
According to CBC News, Loyer used the provision to file a lawsuit against three Lillooet citizens who criticized him over his handling of two flooding incidents.
Whistlerite David Buzzard was at the Dec. 5 council meeting to ask if the same is possible in Whistler.
"Globally speaking, are those types of clauses involved in any municipal employment contracts?" Buzzard asked.
Acting Mayor Jack Crompton said he didn't know the specific answer, but noted he was at Lillooet's council meeting on Dec. 4 where the issue was discussed.
"It's been pulled from all their contracts, and my understanding of it is it that it is a unique part of that specific contract," Crompton said.
Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey also said he couldn't speak to the specifics of that clause, but said there is nothing of that nature in RMOW contracts.
"If there's anything to think about, it would be if, under the Community Charter or the Local Government Act, a staff member was found responsible for something related to a construction or anything like that... our insurance would cover that, but that's not related to libel or anything," Furey said.
As a follow up question, Buzzard asked if there are any mechanisms the RMOW has to sue a member of the public for libel or defamation.
"You can; I don't think we would. But as you saw in that scenario, it happens in other places," Crompton said.
TAPLEY'S FARM FLOOD MITIGATION A WORK IN PROGRESS
A pair of flood control projects are still awaiting completion around Tapley's Farm following a major flooding event in the neighbourhood in December 2014.
Though a series of design and procurement challenges delayed its start, most of the flood protection work along Crabapple Creek is now completed.
"Concrete blocks have been installed to provide flood mitigation and positioned to keep Crabapple Creek on the golf course property at that location," a municipal spokesperson said, adding that remaining work will be done in the spring.
The project is budgeted at $45,000.
The second project, endorsed by council in November 2015 with an expected budget of about $250,000, includes the construction of a flood bypass channel on 21 Mile Creek that would divert flood waters away from the Tapley's neighbourhood.
"This project is still awaiting permitting approval from provincial agencies, but we expect to be able to proceed in 2018," the spokesperson said.
"Both these areas are closely monitored by our roads crew during high water events (as they have done in the past)."
No major flooding has occurred in the neighbourhood since 2014.
OPEN HOUSE SET FOR NEW LIQUOR LICENCE LAWS
With hundreds of Whistler businesses now eligible to apply for a liquor licence, the RMOW is looking for input from business owners and residents.
An open house is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 14 from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the Whistler Conference Centre's Fitzsimmons Room.
Under the new rules, businesses without a primary focus on liquor service are now eligible for a Liquor Primary Licence, while those without a primary focus on food service are now eligible for a Food Primary Licence.
The change opens the door for almost any business in Whistler to apply for a liquor licence, provided they don't operate out of a motor vehicle or cater to minors.
In conjunction with the open house, a survey is available at whistler.ca/LiquorLicenceOpenHouse for comment until January 2.
The RMOW will use feedback gathered to help form a policy around the new laws.
SLRD BOARD APPOINTMENTS
Following a big bump in population in the 2016 census, Whistler now has increased representation on the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's (SLRD) board of directors.
Councillor Jen Ford has been added to the SLRD board, joining Coun. Jack Crompton (who also sits as chair).
The addition gives Whistler two out of 10 votes on the board of directors, but isn't likely to fundamentally change things moving forward, Crompton said.
"Obviously Coun. Ford lives and works in Whistler, so she brings the perspective of Whistlerites," he said.
"That said, board members are required to think regionally... Whistler directors are responsible to consider all residents rather than Whistler residents alone,"
Both Whistler and Squamish now also have an extra vote during "weighted all votes," which are invoked under four rare circumstances: Authorizing persons to enter into contracts on behalf of the regional district; Authorizing the acquisition, expropriation or disposal of real property; Adopting the financial plan under section 374 [annual financial plan] and; Authorizing borrowing and liabilities under Division 6 [Expenditures and Liabilities] of Part 11 [Regional Districts: Financial Management] of the Local Government Act.
To read more about the SLRD's governance structure head to www.slrd.bc.ca/about-us/what-slrd/how-we-are-governed.