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Housing project could benefit essential services

Council briefs: UBCM sponsorship controversy; Special Event Bylaw gets first readings

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A revised application from Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) for an employee housing project in Cheakamus Crossing was endorsed by council at the July 9 meeting, with a public information meeting to follow.

The project is one of five private developer employee-housing ventures to arise from the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing (and one of two that was green lit for further review on Feb. 26—see Pique, Feb. 28).

The revised application proposes a zoning amendment to allow for a new employee housing building at 1315 Cloudburst Dr. and for employee-housing use of the existing townhouses at 1345 Cloudburst.

The rezoning application seeks an increase in gross floor area at 1315 Cloudburst—from 2,500 square metres to 3,900 square metres—to allow for 57 apartment units.

The added density (about 1,400 square metres) would be secured for employee housing use via a housing agreement placed on title, which would restrict its use to below-market, price-restricted employee housing (not athlete or coach accommodation).

The existing density (about 2,500 square metres) would be available for either employee or athlete housing.

Proposed rental rates are $1,200 a month for one-bedroom units (about 438 square feet) and $2,200 for two-bedroom (about 660 square feet).

Of the building's proposed 57 units (21 one-bedroom and 36 two-bedroom), 20 would be designated as incremental, price-restricted employee housing. Eligible employees can come from the WSL workforce or from the Whistler Housing Authority waitlist.

At 1345 Cloudburst, meanwhile, WSL is looking to provide an extra 20 employee-housing townhomes.

But an amendment to the proposal floated by Councillor Jen Ford could help ease the pain of essential services in Whistler.

Ford's amendment—unanimously supported by council—added the caveat that the zoning for the 20 townhouses at 1345 Cloudburst include a right of first refusal to full-time daycare workers and essential services as defined by the province.

The Whistler Housing Authority instituted a policy around essential services in 2003, which gave priority to those working in public health, safety or education—but the policy was terminated in 2008, when demand for rental housing in Whistler began to grow.

With council's approval, a public information meeting for the WSL project will follow, as well as a formal public hearing process.

WSL's original proposal was for 48 apartments in one building, though a phased approach with a second building was always part of the larger plan.

The rezoning application is the first private-developer employee housing project to come to council since it updated its guidelines for such ventures on March 26 (see Pique, April 1).

Some of the other projects, like one proposed for 2077 Garibaldi Way in Nordic, have been met with fierce opposition from neighbours.

While it's not clear when council will next consider those proposals, a municipal spokesperson said that the planning department has not received any new or revised materials from the applicant at 2077 Garibaldi Way.

UBCM SPONSORSHIP CONTROVERSY

What was intended by Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton to be a one-on-one conversation between himself and Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West made its way to the public realm via a freedom of information request—and subsequent headline in The Province—on July 6.

On June 29, Crompton sent an email to West regarding the Port Coquitlam mayor's public opposition to a Chinese government sponsored event at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention valued at $6,000.

Crompton's opposition isn't in regards to the sponsorship itself—a stance he says he and West agree on—but in the Port Coquitlam mayor's choice to take the matter public.

"My intention here was to have a one-on-one conversation with another person. I wanted to encourage him to engage with an organization that I have a lot of respect for," Crompton said after the July 9 council meeting.

"There are many avenues that UBCM makes available for members to advocate for change in policy. My hope is that elected officials use those avenues."

In his response to Crompton, West said he raised the issue with the UBCM executive more than once before being asked by a reporter for his position—which he gave.

It's the second time in less than a year that a letter penned by Crompton has garnered attention outside of Whistler (the first being the now-infamous letter to oil and gas companies demanding they "pay their fair share" of climate-related costs, which still prompts the occasional outraged letter to council)—what's the mayor's takeaway this time around?

"I place a high value on vigorous debate and collegiality," he said.

"In our council and at UBCM, those two things are fundamental to the success of our organizations, and as I move forward I want to be a person who promotes those here and with my colleagues (at UBCM)."

SPECIAL EVENT BYLAW GETS FIRST THREE READINGS

A new bylaw aims to add more oversight to special events in Whistler.

The Special Event Bylaw (SEB), introduced and given first three readings at the July 9 council meeting, will "strengthen the planning, organization, management, and execution" of Whistler's special events, according to Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) staff.

As it stands, there is no bylaw governing special events currently in place, said manager of village events and animation Bob Andrea, in a presentation to council.

But with Whistler's significant year-round growth in visitation has come an increase in the number (and complexity) of special events, prompting the need for regulatory oversight via the SEB.

"Using policy to manage special events will help us achieve positive outcomes," Andrea said.

"We'd love to be able to help to continue to ensure a safe public environment, further protect the natural and built environments of Whistler, and assist with providing clear expectations for our event organizers."

The SEB will formalize existing guidelines, best practices, processes and procedures for special events, and serve as a resource for RMOW staff and event producers.

In essence, the SEB will ensure event producers are compliant before, during and after their events by providing clear expectations and requirements.

The bylaw breaks events down into three categories: Major Event, (at least 500 attendees), Minor Event (fewer than 500 attendees) and Club Event (any public or private event that has 12 or more attendees, of which any part takes place on public property and occurs at least twice a year—this includes running, hiking and biking clubs or camps).

Crompton raised the question of weekly community groups—like WORCA's wildly popular Toonie Races—in relation to the new bylaw.

"Most community and club events that currently just book a park, or field, or trail or outdoor space, that would still be booked through our outdoor facility booking process," Andrea said.

"Something that comes in (that is) new, we would analyze, we would determine what would be the best tool or mechanism for making sure it's regulated properly."

Special events that don't fall in one of the three categories can be approved by the general manager of resort experience.

A companion bylaw dealing with ticketing and enforcement concerning special events was also introduced on July 9. The bylaw amendment adds fines for "failure to provide proof of any licence, permit, approval or authorization" for a special event.

Under the amended bylaw, event producers can be fined up to $500 for any of a wide range of infractions—everything from holding an event without a permit to advertising an event without RMOW permission.

They'll also have to submit a security deposit (the amount of which will depend on the size, duration, and nature of the event).

Sue Eckersley—who has produced events in Whistler through her company Watermark Communications Inc. for about 20 years, including Cornucopia and the Whistler Holiday Experience—said the bylaw appears to be in line with what's already in place.

"I don't think it's much different than what actually exists now, it just seems to be that it's formalized," she said.

"I think it's nice that the expectations are the same across the way ... My expectation would be that those people who run the department—who are eminently reasonable—won't be onerous for the small events as they find their way."

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