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Letters to the editor

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In response to Steve Wragg’s letter "The Olympic legacy" (Pique, March 19 th , 2004).

I feel compelled to point out that while there may be many reasons, good or bad, for the municipality to pursue infill, none of the those reasons is because it’s the, "quickest and easiest". To be sure, infill, by its nature of being close to existing property owners, results in more NIMBY shorts getting knotted than any other possible strategy (particularly developing the no-neighbours neighbourhood of the Callaghan). If it’s quick and easy you’re after, the Callaghan is your baby.

However, criticizing infill for its impact on animal habitat is to conveniently overlook the fact that housing in the Callaghan will also have an impact on habitat and wildlife corridors. In fact, if one had to choose which impact would be more damaging, the answer is obvious – the Callaghan has more currently intact forested habitat and contiguous wildlife corridor than any of the proposed infill sites. While I acknowledge that the Callaghan is primarily second growth forest, impacted by both recent forestry and a short history of industrial mining, it is nowhere near as fragmented as the Whistler valley, nor will it be, even with the addition of the proposed Olympic venue and associated infrastructure.

Decreasing the footprint of existing communities, preventing pathogenic urban sprawl, clustering development into contained areas, and reducing commuting distances are all well-accepted strategies for decreasing our settlement impacts on the environment and creating more sustainable communities. Done properly, it should also lead to more vibrant, walkable and safe neighborhoods, where people drive less and local businesses thrive.

To achieve these goals, while at the same time valuing and maintaining green space in and around our neighbourhoods is both possible and necessary. However it does lead to the linked strategy of decreasing our archetypal housing form from the land-consumptive patterns typical of suburban single-family neighborhoods to better designed, compact, and clustered options of increased densities. To say that you don’t believe that this is the "right direction" is to overlook the blatant fact that our current North American land settlement patterns are characteristic of the most energy and resource consumptive society in recorded history. If Whistler is serious about sustainability, and if our community is serious about maintaining the environment as a cornerstone of the Whistler experience, we have to get our head out of the sand and face this reality.

Ted Battiston

Whistler

 

We couldn't raise the monies to build a combined library/museum as originally proposed, but now we can afford a more expensive library that doesn't included a museum? Why do we need such an expensive library? I agree that we need a "real library." I use the library, but I'm not sure that being a world class resort means that we have to have a trophy library. We already have a trophy firehall that cost Whistler taxpayers quite a bit. There are other needs that have been out there for more years than needing such an expensive library. And do we need these additional parking spaces? Are all the existing ones in the area full even in high season?

Moreover, a councillor was quoted in the Pique as saying that it wasn't his job to question high-paid muni staff. Then whose is it? This individual was elected to see that the needs of the community are met in the community's best interest. Why bother electing anyone – just let the muni staff decide everything then. Just because Whistler has "world class status" doesn't mean we can continue spending money like a drunken sailor on shore leave when it's already too expensive for the majority of employees that are trying to live here.

Larry Miller

Whistler

 

Bad government and greed

Having read the decision of Madam Justice Humphries on the Nita Lake Lodge zoning decision I was pleased to see that the salient segments of the decision were reported accurately in the articles and editorial. I was disappointed in the final comments of your editorial that described the taxpayers, developers and community as having lost again and that they deserved better.

As a taxpayer I agree we do deserve better, better local government. The decision of Madam Justice Humphries is not grey it is black and white. The LGA does not permit zoning to be sold for amenities. How is it that our municipal council, their outside legal counsel and municipal staff who deal with this don’t know this? Understanding the LGA is a fundamental aspect of municipal government and it appears that no one is aware that council’s actions were illegal. In any other business were mistakes of this magnitude are made and a significant cost is incurred someone bears responsibility, and I would suggest that the responsible parties would likely lose their jobs. The incompetence of council, their lawyers and staff has wasted a significant amount of taxpayers’ money over an issue that was clearly illegal from the outset. As a community we deserve better government for the money that we pay. The Lamberts did the community a favor by blowing the whistle on this level of incompetence.

At the last public meeting the community sentiment regarding the project was pretty clear to me. The speakers in favour of the project were either paid consultants brought forward by Mr. Haibeck to tell us what a wonderful project this was going to be (no surprise) or speakers that would have a vested interest in the project once completed. Only two local residents spoke in favour of the project. The remainder of the speakers, of which there were numerous, told council that they wanted a park or a small lodge. This was not reported accurately at the time in your editorial. Council obviously doesn’t concern itself with what the residents may want as there is nothing it for them, and they think they need employee housing and a train station at any cost. As for the promoter, Mr. Haibeck, apparently he doesn’t care what he has to provide to build his hotel. This has to tell you that there is a lot of money to be made and he will do anything to get his share. Does he care about the Creekside? I doubt it, he will build the hotel, sell his lots and will be gone with his money. What about the obvious transportation problems from the train station. You cannot currently manoeuvre three buses on the roadway. Where do they expect to park and move 10 or 20 buses when the tourist trains arrive? By the time this happens Mr. Haibeck will be long gone and the problem will be left with the residents and taxpayers. Council and the developers are overwhelmed by greed and all this is going to do is create problems and cost for the residents and taxpayers. It is our money that council is spending and we deserve to have it managed properly.

Whistler does need a train station and we do need affordable housing. I would like to see the train station in a location that suits its needs, rather than the needs of a developer, even if it initially costs more to relocate the station. The affordable/employee housing issue, thankfully council has something to bring up every election. Yes it needs to be addressed, but what of the housing to be built for 2010? Do we need to lose limited lake front parkland for a short-term solution? We need our council and staff to take a balanced thoughtful approach, not a knee jerk reaction to accept the first easy proposal that comes along. The price in the long term will be prohibitive, and we as taxpayers will be stuck with footing the bill. As residents of Whistler we deserve a government that is lawful and caring for us.

Robin Brown P. Eng.

Whistler

 

Council must reduce the size of the Nita Lake Lodge.

Now that the B.C. Supreme Court has handed down its verdict, council cannot in all conscience, for a third time, attempt a redrafted bylaw for this development. Whistler is not a banana republic.

Can you imagine the outcries from the community at the next public hearing if such an attempt is made!

It must now be abundantly clear that Whistler has been caught selling land zoning and this development is too big.

Whistler tax rates are already too high. I urge council to stop wasting our money and time and accept this is a bad development, illegally approved, and do the right thing by scaling back the hotel.

At the last public hearing in July, one community member objecting to the development and the payments said: "I think you are going to be sued, I think you are going lose, and I don't want to pay your legal bills."

Don't let it happen again.

Wayne Bennett

Whistler

 

I was amazed to read in the papers that the Nita Lake development had gone to trial and that RMOW had lost. What on earth were they thinking of, wasting our tax dollars on a case they were clearly going to lose, based as it was, on greed and with an arrogant disregard for almost every bylaw and community plan that Whistler has.

Mr. Lambert has though, ironically done us all a great favour, as perhaps now the arrogant council we have (apart from Councillor Melamed and Councillor Wells), that think they can act with impunity will at last realize that they cannot and will have to in the future be held accountable.

The endless urban sprawl with ever decreasing green spaces has to be stopped, and now perhaps developers and council will realize that Whistler is not for sale.

With the worst two years of ever decreasing numbers and occupancy in the resort, I would have thought it would have dawned on someone that building more and more hotels and accommodation is only going to saturate an already saturated market.

What a less arrogant RMOW should have done, when Whistler became the number one resort in America, is looked at what made it unique – such as the wonderful green space and true mountain experience, and the vibrant local community – instead of thinking this was a never ending cash cow and diluting the whole experience with the result we are just an urban jungle with way too much tourist accommodation.

Learn from this and stop further development and finally knock this totally out of proportion hotel at Nita Lake on the head and get it back to green space for the Creekside.

Elizabeth Shaw

Whistler/West Vancouver

 

Firstly I would like to say thank you to Alison Taylor for her very factual and profession articles on the Nita Lake Decision.

Secondly I would like to say how sad that the head of our Chamber of Commerce seems to think that a process that was both flawed and illegal is a gold standard as far as how municipal business should be done – just another face of the arrogance that has engulfed this town and its law makers.

Mr. Lambert and his legal team told both the RMOW and the developer that this was illegal, twice, and yet because they had done it before with the Emerald Forest Deal and got away with it, did they think they were above the law?

Surely we should be grateful that we have found out sooner rather than later that this way of doing business is illegal.

Now, sadly, we have to pay the bills, which might even be greater if Mr. Haibeck decides to sue the RMOW for their incompetence.

From my point of view Mr. Lambert has done this community a great service, watching as I have over the five years I have been here, the rampant development that has gone unchecked. It has changed Whistler from a beautiful wilderness resort with plenty of green space that I visited 10 years ago, to a concrete jungle that it would appear less and less people want to visit.

The last two years have seen visitor numbers continue to fall, hotel occupancy continue to fall and the real estate market, in the $2 million and above range, is stone dead.

In the light of all this should the RMOW be doing any more building, let alone more hotels and high-end homes? And as for the train station – it is not dead – as I am sure whoever wins the contract to run rail tours to Whistler will be able to build a station, and hopefully in a better location such as Mons.

Susie Goodall

Whistler

 

After reading the court’s ruling against the development of the Nita Lake Lodge and the bylaws passed by the RMOW, the following three questions are foremost on my mind:

  1. Will the RMOW, in future, retain the law firm that helped draft the bylaws?
  2. Which party will pay for all costs incurred – the law firm or the Whistler taxpayer?
  3. Will the Whistler council finally review its administration as was proposed by Councillor Wells?

Maybe it is time that the people of Whistler wake up and start asking questions.

Peter C. Alder

Whistler/Maui

 

Over the past few months, teachers across the province have been engaged in a vigorous campaign to restore a democratic, representative College of Teachers. This campaign has received overwhelming support from public school teachers and has unified teachers in a way that few issues ever have before. Teachers believe that their fundamental legal rights and protections have been violated by the creation of this undemocratic institution, and as a result, asked the B.C. Supreme Court to rule on its legality. Regrettably, the Court dismissed our case in a terse ruling by Justice Stewart.

While this decision will be appealed, based on compelling legal reasons, it is important for members of the public to know that teachers would prefer to resolve this dispute through negotiation rather than litigation. Teachers will never accept an appointed, undemocratic College, particularly one which continues to pass bylaws that will profoundly affect teachers’ professional practice. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has made many attempts to settle this dispute, however, it remains unresolved. While the previous Minister of Education, Christy Clark, made a commitment in December to restore a democratic College, no legislation has been introduced to date, although the new Minister, Tom Christensen, has stated that he intends to honour this earlier commitment. We are hopeful that a scheduled meeting between Minister Christensen and BCTF leadership on March 30 th will result in meaningful progress on this issue.

We are urging members of the public, particularly parents, to write to your MLA, Ted Nebbeling, and Tom Christensen, Minister of Education, and encourage a resolution to this unnecessary dispute.

Carl Walker

President

Howe Sound Teachers’ Association

 

I have only recently discovered Whistler-Blackcomb and have been rapidly making up for all they wasted years ignoring her brilliance. I can strongly recommend that they retain their No.1 status, but for one experience.

At one of the larger eating establishments on Blackcomb Mountain, I was confronted by a badly misplaced vending apparatus in the men's washroom. What purpose does a male condom vending machine serve on this mountain? Is Intrawest trying to promote promiscuous intercourse on the slopes, in the trees or even in the washrooms?

I feel we are giving the youth of today the wrong message by making these devices so freely available. Clearly the days are gone when such things are only done in the sanctity of marriage, but who are we really trying to protect? Maybe I am just an old codger who should get with the times and also wear my ski pants down near my knees as seems to be the rage, but I feel this device is really misplaced and unwelcome.

Michael Hunt

Whistler

 

Several interesting points were made at the March 9 th Pemberton Council public meeting regarding a BC Rail rezoning application.

1. The community plan strategy calls for future building above the flood plain. So why rezone in the valley when new lots are now available on higher ground?

2. Those that live in the area had concerns over parking problems and increased traffic.

3. The residents don't see a single benefit in the proposal and council does not appear to see any either. It was amazing, even shocking, when council was unable to outline any benefits of the proposal. They simply deferred to BC Rail.

But in the end, I found the most persuasive and disturbing point was that the current zoning was reached as a compromise between residents and BC Rail a few years ago. The compromise was to allow for one single family home on the parcel of land. The compromise did not suggest that a few years later BC Rail would request rezoning for 13 homes.

It is only respectful that Council honour the past agreement. Frankly, I'm amazed that the process has gone as far as a public meeting. I hope council sees the moral obligation they are under to respect previous decisions.

Tricia Field

Pemberton

 

I can’t take my child back to when he was little or when he was a baby. That stage and time have past and there is no going back. But, I can enjoy the memories and the moments he spent with us.

I can’t take my boy back to the time before his accident that stopped his body from living. That time, like his childhood has past and was never in my ability to control. But, I can appreciate his strong and loving spirit and be thankful that he still makes the effort to keep in touch with the people who love him and miss him so much.

We had time gaps apart when he first went to school. The time gaps increased when he got involved with sports and more friends. When he went to college our time apart increased even more, and when he decided to move to British Columbia, he was physically unreachable without a long flight and long drive. But through it all he kept in touch and did a lot to show his great love for us. Scotty said, "We have a bond that will never be broken", and I believe him.

I miss his hugs, his phone calls, his beautiful blue eyes and his smile which was infectious. I miss not being able to care for him and help him in ways that made him feel happy, supported and loved, and made me feel of value.

Dying is an inevitable part of living and often does not follow any logical order. The loved ones left behind in this physical world often experience an incomprehensible amount and degree of pain, plus the fear of continuing their life without the loved one who has crossed over. The suffering is outrageous and feels like it will never end, but in time we will also see this as another stage in our lives. We will learn to cope and eventually adapt but never forget.

I know that when our time is up, Scott will be there to help us adjust as we cross over and I expect that if there is an answer to our question of "why?", we will know it then.

Thank you Scott for continuing to keep in touch with us, and thanks for all the rainbows.

Carol Brown

Oshawa, Ont.

 

Re: Whistler highway

This is to all who drive the Whistler highway at night.

Why do so many cars wait until they come around the corner to dim their high beams? Don't they realize that by blinding oncoming traffic they put everyone's life at risk? You can see by lights shining on the curves that a car is coming, so why not save your own life, and dim your lights before you shine them into the other driver's eyes from point blank range.

James Higgins.

Vancouver