It's not the multi-million dollar sewer project to link up the last remaining lots to the municipal system, but it's start.
On Tuesday, April 1, the municipality officially entered into a deal to pay half the project costs to link up five homes on Alta Lake Road to the municipal sewer system, splitting the balance with the homeowners.
The sub project is estimated to cost $300,000 — the five homeowners will pay $134,000 between them, the municipality will pay that plus an additional $30,000 to build a deeper sewer line and ensure this first portion will be able to hook up to a future project involving the rest of the road.
This is just a handful of the 40 homes on that road still on septic tanks and fields, but it's a beginning.
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, who has been advocating the larger Alta Lake Road sewer hook up since she took office, was pleased to see this portion move ahead.
Homeowner Michael Blaxland, who spearheaded the project while building a home on the lake, said the negotiations were difficult but he hopes to be hooked up by the end of May.
The five homeowners wanted to have the cost amortized over 20 years by way of a parcel tax, similar to the way deals have been made in the past.
They will, however, be paying their 50 per cent of the cost upfront in a lump sum.
Blaxland, too, is assuming 100 per cent of the risk he said, personally negotiating the deal for the rock blasting and removal.
"It puts a lot of pressure on me," said Blaxland. "That's the way it had to be."
Staff will be before council in the coming months to provide an update on the large Alta Lake sewer project.
An email from the communications department said: "We continue to invite feedback from the neighbourhood. We are preparing to soon distribute a summary brochure for the residents that will summarize what we heard from them during the recent consultation efforts and open house. That brochure will again invite them to provide feedback to us."
New changes for old Chicken Coops
The derelict and abandoned condo building at the entrance to Creekside, known as The Chicken Coops, is set to get some new life.
Council has given the nod to continue processing a rezoning application that will allow the owners to increase the building height by almost one metre and will also allow an increase in floor-space ratio.
That increase will allow each of the 11-units in the townhouse complex to have two bedrooms per unit as opposed to one bedroom, by closing in the loft area.
"The footprint of the building is largely the same," said planner Amica Antonelli in her report to council Tuesday night.
The height of the building will be two metres taller than the existing building, and one metre taller than the approved rezoning dating back to 2008.
"It's about middle of the range for the neighbourhood," said Antonelli, of comparative heights in Creekside.
The changes come in wake of a 2008 approved development designed to facilitate redevelopment of the property. That rezoning five years ago increased the original gross floor area and the bed units on site from 24 to 33.
"The plans were deemed too costly to implement and were not pursued by the owners," stated the staff report to council.
The development permit was never officially issued.
In its submission to council, Diamond Head Development stated the new plans would improve and update the condition of the "unsightly 1970s property" and "be more in keeping with contemporary projects that are emerging and renewing the face of the neighbourhood."
It has taken 10 years to arrive at this design.
Restrictions lifted on garden debris burning
In one of her first administrative changes as Whistler's new fire chief, Sheila Kirkwood is making changes to residential debris burning and campfires.
Kirkwood was before council Tuesday, asking for consideration to changes to the fire protection bylaw. Specifically, she asked that residents be allowed to burn garden debris during specific time periods, something that has been banned in Whistler since 2008. She also asked that residents be allowed to have campfires when the fire danger rating is low or moderate.
"We've seen an increase in fuel accumulation on individual homeowners' properties," Kirkwood told council of the reason why she is bringing the debris burning changes forward.
"We need to look at a balance of cost-effective solutions."
The 2008 burning ban forces residents to dump at the Callaghan at a cost of $30 per tonne, or at Nesters twice a year during the free drop-off periods.
By allowing residents to burn their garden debris for two weeks in May (1-15) and two weeks in October (15-31), there is less chance fuel will accumulate on the property.
Kirkwood called the campfire regulations "multi-layered" and asked to move to one set of rules consistent year round, tied to the fire danger rating.
In both cases — burning garden debris and campfires — residents will need a permit. This will require a Firesmart assessment of the property from the fire department.
"This will provide a direct opportunity for public education and a list of recommendations for the homeowner to follow to reduce fire hazards and achieve Firesmart status," explained Kirkwood.
Council gave the bylaw changes the first three readings at the meeting,
Skating rink smashes 2013 numbers
Skate rentals at the outdoor village ice rink this year outstripped the 2012 numbers handily.
For the 2013/14-winter season, 24,000 skates were rented at the outdoor rink, compared to 16,000 last year.
"To say that the ice rink is a hit is an understatement," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in her Mayor's Report Tuesday.
The rink officially closed on Sunday.
The weekend also marked the closing of the municipally run Lost Lake cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails. This season 17,000 visitors used those facilities.
Muni employees get recognition
This week marks Employee Recognition Week and the municipality called out five of its best at Tuesday's council meeting.
"The staff are the backbone of our organization," said municipal CAO Mike Furey. "The work of the RMOW staff really touches the lives of the resort community almost on a daily basis."
Forty staff members were nominated by their peers for special recognition and five were chosen overall.
• Shawn McLaughlin, night crew lead hand, roads, for going Above and Beyond
• Lisa Rickli, HR coordinator, for Excellence in Teamwork
• Ron Thuman, journeyman mechanic, for Excellence in Cusomter Service
• Lee-Ann Barczynski, lifeguard/swim instructor, for Excellence in Health and Safety
• Donna Wango, executive secretary, for Excellence in Being a Resort Ambassador
The mayor said staff do a remarkable job that "for the most part goes unnoticed when it's done well."
WORCA gets most in CEP grants
Mountain biking in Whistler is getting a boost in funding this year as council doubles its commitment to the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association through its annual community grant program.
WORCA is getting three times as much as any other community group with a $30,000 grant out of the annual Community Enrichment Program (CEP), a council-directed municipal funding opportunity for local non-profits.
"All of this money is going to be invested into the trail planning working group's Sproatt alpine project," said WORCA president Jerome David. "(It's) a multi-use trail up Sproatt Mountain that is beginning this year."
When asked if the investment in the new trail will take away from WORCA's ongoing maintenance work, David said: "We are going to stay (true) to our responsibility of managing all the trails in the valley. We do feel that we've reached a point in the valley where it seems under control... The maintenance is down to a minimum, that's why we can now take on something new."
Just as they were last year, the other big 2014 CEP recipients are: $11,000 for the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program, $10,000 for the Whistler Parent Tot Drop-In and, $9,500 for the Whistler Youth Soccer Club.
In total, more than $146,000 was doled out at Tuesday's evening meeting, up more than $9,000 from last year.
Community groups requested almost $250,000 out of the annual program.