New approach needed for municipal water management
Thank you, Max, for highlighting a critically important issue we need to face as a community: water usage (Maxed Out, Pique, March 29). I believe there is a solution to the concern of larger businesses relying on the commercial, once-through cooling devices until the end of their "useful lives": water meters. If these businesses have to pay to waste water, they may not wait for the end of the "useful lives" to change their systems. Until then, what motivation is there to do so?
Journalist and author Marq de Villiers wrote his award-winning book, Water, describing the frightening state of water supply worldwide and the geopolitical ramifications attaching to it. The drying up of the Colorado River and the depletion of the giant Ogallala aquifer were two examples, close to home, of how we need to change the way we use water or we will run out, but not before causing its salinization to exceed tolerable limits. That was in 1999.
Twice in the last three years, we have experienced significant summer droughts. In 2015, the snow pack was low creating the perfect (anti)storm for water supply. A fish-bearing stream that flows through Alpine Meadows completely dried up; this, despite the hanging glacier above it on Rainbow Mountain. One does not have to weigh in on climate change to know that our local glaciers are shrinking. We can see them from our homes.
We can start preparing for the inevitable now and avert a hugely expensive crisis management situation by going further with municipal laws than just targeting one facet of the community. We can all make a difference by changing the way we source and use water. Visiting New Zealand in 2003, I observed all the homes with giant cisterns under and around the houses, supplied by rainwater. This water was used for all purposes in their homes but we could, at the very least, set up grey water systems with this type of infrastructure to water our lawns and gardens, and perhaps certain uses within the home. The municipality can lead the way by doing the same for our local parks.
Las Vegas has been forced to make drastic changes to their water infrastructure due to the depletion of Lake Mead. While that city negotiates extending a pipeline to source water from even further away, they are encouraging homeowners to replace lawns with more indigenous landscaping options and hotels to rely more on grey water. If Las Vegas can take this sort of action, surely Whistler can.
As long as we have a flat fee for annual water use, there is no disincentive to wasting water. Canadian cities that are metered use about 40- to 45-per-cent less water per person compared to cities that are not metered. We pay for hydro by usage—why not water? Those who conserve are rewarded.
Instead of enacting bylaws that will have little to no effect for years to come, how about focusing on those that change trends immediately. For example, requiring all new builds to install grey water systems for landscaping. Offer grants (with contribution from the provincial government?) for those who choose to retrofit their homes. Even without these steps, water metering should make an immediate difference. And for those concerned that such a system will be used as a tax grab or a punitive measure, rates could be established such that the average user pays the same as they did before meters were installed.
Let's not wait until the crisis is upon us.
MORE ON-MOUNTAIN SAFETY MEASURES NEEDED
Have you noticed an increase in skiers and boarders who are out of control this winter?
All the efficient lifts may remove lineups but they also mean that more people are packed onto the runs at the same time.
What I feared most happened on Friday, March 30. My husband Walter was doing the traverse from Olympic to Crabapple, just above the loading area for the Garbanzo chair.
It was a beautiful sunny day, good snow and not crowded, with excellent visibility.
Walter's attention was on a boarder close to him when another boarder came rocketing down the short pitch to the Garbanzo chair and slammed right into him.
It is not clear why this boarder didn't avoid the crash. He later claimed that he didn't know which way my husband was going to turn, but he had no need to be so close in the first place.
I came around the corner from Olympic to find a sight no one wants to see: a 33-year-old man standing over a 76-year-old senior, crumpled on the snow.
The snowboard was totaled, a large chunk of the edge ripped out by Walter's ski boot buckle during the crash. His left chest took a direct hit from the boarder's helmet, which cracked a rib and has left him very sore. He also has a badly bruised knee. Both were wearing helmets which got small dents.
It appears that two things saved Walter from more serious injury. Fortunately, he is very fit due to all our sports—and he was also just plain lucky.
But his skiing is done for the season and his golf and kayaking are on hold for the next six weeks while he heals.
The week before, we were in the same area with our young grandsons. A hit like that on a child... it doesn't bear thinking about.
This isn't an isolated incident—we seem to hear these stories far too often. In Walter's case, to his credit, the boarder stayed on the scene to apologize. He didn't want to be the cause of an accident. He just made a mistake.
I appreciate all the work the safety crews do, standing in the cold trying to control speed, but there is still more that must be done. It must become even more socially unacceptable to ski and board recklessly. The mountains must work more aggressively on promoting a safer climate for the majority of us to enjoy.
More areas need fencing with gates across the slope like on Blackcomb below the Tube Park, to slow the traffic.
And if that fails, then it is time for the mountains to be more forceful. Remove the passes of people who cannot or will not maintain control of themselves.
I do realize we are the lucky ones. My husband will heal and we will continue to enjoy sports, although skiing will now carry with it a certain amount of apprehension.
Another skier may not have been as lucky.
WHY IS WHISTLER EXEMPT FROM NEW TAX?
I continue to see (grotesquely huge) homes being built in Whistler, many that will stay empty for the majority of the year—YET, Whistler is suffering from a devastating rental crisis. Can someone tell me why Whistler is exempt from the new speculation tax for foreign/out-of-province homeowners?
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Those of us that live in Whistler need to be considered most fortunate. Everyone I've talked to, wherever and whoever, agrees with that sentiment. This being the case, we need to start making decisions to make it possible for more people to enjoy doing and sharing what we find so desirable.
The question is, how do we do that?
The obvious answer is to build more (housing) units.
We seem to have forgotten that we are a resort community, not a bedroom community. It's true we need more "beds," but not in the traditional sense where a single-family dwelling gets built around the idea, where the "beds" become the primary objective.
For simplicity, let's assume we currently have 20,000 SFDs (single-family dwellings) and 10,000 jobs in Whistler that pay well enough to support a SFD household. We, the permanent residents of Whistler, are not commuters working in other jurisdictions, so therefore, the remaining SFDs are either occupied by the retirement community or lie vacant waiting for the owners to occupy while vacationing in Whistler.
Conclusion: Let's not allow more SFDs to be built. The existing inventory of SFDs can easily accommodate the growth in the job market and there's always something for sale to meet this demand.
The demand for more beds has been aptly identified by the numerous studies undertaken.
The assumption that the corrective measures are the responsibility of government may be misguided. The local government can certainly provide the means, but should they actually provide the solution? The Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) may have had a purpose in the past, but like any Official Community Plan (OCP), it needs to be amended as growth occurs.
It's my personal view that we are not doing the purchasers of WHA housing any favours by "forcing" them into restricted housing. I believe our government has failed "us" by not making provisions within the OCP for viable market alternatives to the WHA.Lastly, as a senior who will sooner or later need to find accommodation other than a SFD, there is little or no choice but to move away from Whistler. This needs to be addressed.
Restricting access to new developments of multi-residential housing may be a solution for a few, but isn't addressing the needs and desires of the majority—the "majority" being the current and future property-tax-paying members of our community.Other thoughts: To penalize owners of vacant property completely contradicts the whole concept of what Whistler was and should remain, and that is, it's a resort. Look it up.
Limiting the height of new buildings seems to be counterproductive to achieving our goals as defined in the studies on housing. You can't build it higher than the tree or mountain behind it.We need to maximize the potential of what we have left. Allowing what land is left for growth to be gobbled up by low-density housing is contrary to our guiding principals of being green and environmentally sensitive.
If we haven't already become a bedroom community we are certainly heading in that direction.
PRAISE FOR WB SKI SCHOOL
With all the change at Whistler Blackcomb in recent years, one thing that has remained consistent is the quality of our ski instructors.
I would like to give a huge thanks to Melissa, Robbie, Pete, Charlie, Anselmo, John, Sasha, and Steve from Creekside for coaching the Whistler Blackcomb racers at the 16th Annual Hub International Nancy Greene Festival in Sun Peaks last week. They ensured the kids were warmed up and prepared for each event and provided last minute pep talks and strategy in the start gates. This experience was invaluable for the kids—many of whom were participating in their first-ever race.
I would also like to shout out Sinc and Charlie from the Creekside Skier Development Program who have helped prepare our kids each and every week since December for this moment. The dedication and enthusiasm shown by all Whistler Blackcomb instructors and coaches for teaching our kids has helped build their confidence and love for skiing and the outdoors. We are lucky to have so many great instructors in our backyard!
OPEN LETTER TO THE SLRD ON PROPOSED BYLAW AMENDMENT
Does the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) adequately represent the rural constituents of Area C?
That is the real question that will be taken up at the upcoming Public Information Meeting on an Area C Zoning Amendment Bylaw on April 11. The SLRD board and staff have tried to move this amendment through twice and, to the credit of the board, it has been stopped.**
Now we have a public meeting to gather more input. Although this question will not be answered at the meeting, it will become self-evident soon after, based on the SLRD's subsequent actions.
Here are some more questions that should, perhaps, be answered at this meeting.
Why should the SLRD be trying to do the Agricultural Land Commission's (ALC's) job?
Since when is the SLRD an expert on agriculture?
Why would the SLRD take on the extra expense burden of administration and enforcement of issues within the purview of the ALC?
This is not a complicated issue. The SLRD is redundant when it comes to agricultural land. The ALC, mandated by the provincial government, are the agricultural experts making decisions on what is or is not allowed on agricultural land. The ALC exists to preserve and protect farming and farmland. All that is required in the bylaw is deferral to the ALC with respect to land use on land identified by the ALC as agricultural land reserve. These properties only need to be zoned as such in the SLRD bylaws.
SLRD staff claim it is necessary to mirror the ALC rules. These rules have changed 11 times in the last three years. Are we to change our bylaws regularly so that the two sets of rules are always in sync? It's just another level of needless bureaucracy. This just goes too far.
Unfortunately, it takes a situation like this to wake folks up to what the SLRD and staff have quietly been doing every few years: passing more and more restrictive bylaws under the guise of "housekeeping and minor changes." No one pays attention (except those who discover they have been directly impacted).
The problems with the current bylaw changes are not just with the proposed bylaw, but also with prior amendments that were made with little or no public input nor fanfare. Now, since they have the public's attention and they are getting negative feedback on a particular bylaw, staff's favourite line has become, "well, it is in our current bylaw." That is not a response that makes that particular bylaw right. It just tries to make the issue go away by implying it cannot be changed, when it can. The SLRD opened up the bylaw to change it. That means that everything is on the table, including what is in the current bylaw. The same issue occurs with residents of rural zoned properties.
We do not suggest that the SLRD did not follow the rules of notification. This public input process has been a major problem for the SLRD, and it could be said we are apathetic to their calls for communication. However, the board and staff need to make sure that when documents of this sort are being changed that they do get "enough" input to validate the changes. Those of us who live and work in the rural areas of the SLRD work hard just to maintain ourselves on our properties, doing a variety of things to make ends meet. Many do not have the luxury of a salaried position, so do not always have the time to pay attention to documents that are not easily accessible, or easily understood, until it is too late. When we have the choice of going out and cutting firewood to stay warm, or reviewing a document that may impact us in the future, the firewood wins every time.
In order to present a united front to the SLRD in Area C, a group called 'Future Area C Engagement' (FACE—catchy, eh?) has been formed to try and bring together concerns about this bylaw and past bylaws that do not reflect the values nor wishes of the residents of rural Area C. At this time they have collected numerous email addresses and concerns of the residents of Area C that are primarily about the ALR land and have encouraged all to send their comments on Zoning Bylaw Amendment No. 1549 directly to the SLRD: Iholl@slrd.bc.ca and email@example.com, as well to FACE at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will make an effort to collate the responses and present them to the SLRD. However, it is still important to voice your opinion directly to the SLRD. There is a public information meeting planned for 6:30 p.m. at the Pemberton Community Centre on April 11. If you are concerned with maintaining the farmers as well as the farmland and want to be heard, please be there.
Area C Resident
(**EDITOR'S NOTE: The bylaw in question was originally part of Area C OCP and Zoning Amendment bylaws that were taken to public hearing in September 2017. As a result of public comments, those bylaws were put on hold and the agricultural zoning regulations contained inside were used to form the new Zoning Amendment Bylaw).