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Letters To The Editor

This week's letters

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Here we go again

Up front, let me say that I have substantial bias in the subject matter of this letter. Three days ago, a sign went up on a property four doors away from our home notifying us that the owners are applying to rezone it to tourist accommodation bed and breakfast.

This letter is not about all the very good reasons this application should not be granted. To name a few, it is immediately beside an already zoned B&B, on a quiet cul-de-sac, in an established family neighbourhood, at the top of Alpine, which in a normal winter can be a challenge accessing. (The location of this proposed B&B by the way is 8721 Idylwood Place.)

The reason I am writing this letter is to make your readers aware that the issue of new tourist accommodation in old neighbourhoods has been resurrected when many of us thought it had met a much welcomed demise several years ago.

A little background. I sat on council in the latter half of the ’90s when tourist accommodation in residential subdivisions was a hot button issue. There were both legal and illegal pensions and B&Bs in most subdivisions and those who were legally operating were justifiably upset about the ones who were not. So it appeared to be an enforcement issue at first. Steps were taken by the bylaw enforcement types, which included court proceedings. Operators were encouraged to legitimize their operations by applying for rezoning. Some did.

It was in the course of a number of these rezonings that the real issue came to bear. That was the majority of people in most of the established subdivisions just didn't want these operations in their neighbourhoods. Simple as that. So the council of the day put a moratorium on rezoning in existing neighbourhoods to any type of tourist accommodation. New neighbourhoods such as Kadenwood, Spring Creek, Nita Lake, etc., would have some properties designated as tourist accommodation. That way, the demand for this type of accommodation would be met and all persons purchasing in the new subdivisions would know ahead of time what they were buying into. In other words, no surprises. The days of pitting neighbour against neighbour in established neighbourhoods were over. Or so we thought.

Apparently, council a while ago lifted the moratorium on B&B rezoning. I understand that they believed the impact of a B&B was similar to that of a single family home with a suite so that there was no good reason to maintain the moratorium.

I strongly disagree. First, there are over 20 operating tourist accommodation pension and B&Bs in Whistler neighbourhoods already. Somehow I can't believe that all of them are fully booked year round and guests are complaining to Tourism Whistler that they won't come back to Whistler because there aren't enough B&Bs (maybe not enough inexpensive accommodation units but that's a different story). Further, I believe that there are a substantial additional number of properties that have the pension or B&B zoning but are not being operated as such. That tells me that the supply has exceeded the demand. If that is true, why increase the supply?

Second, as a resort community, we have been successful to a large extent because Whistler has been carefully planned. More recently, there has been thoughtful discussion about sustainability. The resurfacing of B&B rezonings breaches both of these principles. By definition, spot rezoning is unplanned. And what is sustainable about putting tourist accommodation in Alpine and Emerald (which I understand is where all the action is these days with these rezonings) – the two subdivisions furthest away from the amenities of the mountain and the village? What is sustainable about adding to the stock of tourist accommodation units when occupancy rates are at historic lows? At the price of a home which could house community members.

Third, from the experience we have had on our street with the existing B&B, there is no comparison of its impact with that of any one of our neighbours. I'm not slamming B&B operators here, I'm simply describing the reality of a house used by people all arriving in separate vehicles. They drive the roads not thinking they should look out for the old dog up near the corner who rests in the middle of the street sometimes, or the little boy who plays in the ditch by the roadway. They come to have a good time, to party hard in the outdoor hot tub, and to leave. Week after week after week.

I have to say that in speaking to my neighbours about this I hear the same thing over and over. Why do the rules in Whistler keep changing; where is the concern for the residents and why is it always about money in this town? Having sat on the other side of the council table, I think this is a misconception. But perception can be reality and intentionally going down the road of these rezonings, again, is just plain wrong.

Let your council know your views

Nancy Wilhelm-Morden

Whistler

Eclectic competition at Function

Whistler might need an area where industrial organizations can work, but it also (desperately) needs an area that competes with the somewhat bland retail areas of the Village, Creekside and Nesters. By definition, Function Junction will always be different from these "alternatives" courtesy of its location. Being different does not, however, mean it cannot compete and, importantly, by being different it can compete on the basis of both cost and innovation. Allowing it to remain an eclectic mix of businesses and develop further along the lines of Granville Island will benefit the community and all other Whistler businesses. Strategic differentiation and competition never hurt.

Jill Shepherd

Whistler

Encouraging and inspiring

Re: Community thank you to Whistler-Blackcomb

Whistler-Blackcomb was deeply touched by the note of thanks placed in last week's paper. On behalf of the entire company, I would like to sincerely thank the community for this recognition and thoughtful gesture. In a season that, until this weekend, was testing our resolve from beginning to end, your expression of thanks was encouraging and inspiring. I guess Ullr was impressed too!

Not a day has gone by this season without some positive sentiment of encouragement. It has meant a lot to our team.

I would also like to echo your thanks to the entire Whistler-Blackcomb team. Every single person here at the mountains has dug in and kept this season alive. This would have been a very different outcome without the extraordinary efforts that have been put forth.

We also recognize and thank the many organizations and individuals within our community that continue to go above and beyond everyday.

Now, here's to winter's return!

Dave Brownlie

Chief Operating Officer

Whistler-Blackcomb

Secret, underhanded dealings

To Honourable Kevin Falcon Minister of Transportation and Frank Blasetti Assistant Deputy Minister of Transportation:

I am deeply shocked by the underhanded and secret way you are negotiating the area around Mosquito Lake and the ridge between Pemberton and Mount Currie. There have been rumours about this around town for a couple of months but the majority of us who heard them just didn't think it was possible for the government to operate in this manner. Wow, am I ever naive. I actually thought that the provincial government would have to consult the people whose properties border this land, the residents of Pemberton who use this area for mountain biking, swimming, hiking and horseback riding, the businesses that rely on the destination mountain bikers, and the local government before this Crown Land is converted to Private Free Hold Land with the stroke of a pen.

You have not been to Pemberton and do not understand the importance of this area to the community. The Pemberton Valley Trail Association as well as the Pemberton Off Road Cycling Association and other locals have been developing and maintaining the trails in this area for some time. Thousands of mountain bikers come to Pemberton to use these trails, bringing revenue to many local businesses. The Mosquito Lake area is a favourite place for many locals to swim, horseback ride, hike, or just quickly walk the dog. In the fall, people comb the area for pine mushrooms. The area has also been used for more traditional hunting and gathering and there are several culturally/historically significant rock carvings on the hillside. The SLRD had been in discussions with the Ministry of Forest about making this area into a regional park. Due to the steep sides of the Pemberton valley there are not many other forested areas to recreate in. Surely you must be unaware of these facts if you are even considering privatizing the area.

You need to find land to give to the Mount Currie Band in exchange for highway expansion south of Whistler. The expansion is to prepare for the Olympics. I support Mount Currie's efforts to gain as much as they can from the Olympics in terms of land, employment and cash. The majority of the land in this province (and the Sea to Sky Corridor) is Crown Land. It is inconceivable that you were unable to find an area that would please Mount Currie without upsetting a large number of others. In the long run, if this land is privatized and does end up exchanged to Mount Currie it will cost them a bundle in taxes since it is "free hold". The real estate value of the land is astronomical and eventually I fear Mount Currie will want to or be forced economically to develop and sell it (the current zoning of Resource Management allows for a housing density of one dwelling per five acres). Thus, the natural area will be lost for all of us. Why not figure out the value of the land – a large amount I'm sure – and give this cash amount to the band? Then we all win. You have a huge Olympic-size budget, use it.

I cannot believe that Pemberton's Olympic legacy might just be a really big screen TV and the privatization of a spectacularly beautiful area that is heavily used by many residents and tourists for recreation.

I deeply resent the provincial government's tactics – secrecy does not foster any trust or understanding. I would like you to come and answer questions regarding "transparent government". Please set up a date and time with Susie Gimse in Pemberton as soon as possible. I and many others will see you there.

Nicole Jean

Pemberton

Pedestrian unawareness

This is to say a big thank you to all of the drivers, including our bus and taxi drivers, who seem to think that it is OK to speed through crosswalks without slowing down.

I realize that the big signs on either side of the crosswalks with the big pictures of people walking are not enough of a warning for you.

How about if you were to have someone land on your windscreen – would that be enough of a wake up for you?

Seriously though, since I came to live in Whistler almost three years ago I have been amazed at the amount of times I have stood at a crosswalk waiting for drivers to stop and eventually taken a few steps onto the road so that they would notice me standing there. Lucky for me, they eventually noticed and came to a screeching stop.

Take a moment to think about what you are doing because the next time you speed through a crosswalk, there could be a small child, an elderly person or anyone else who is silly enough to trust that you will stop and who will suffer because of your ignorance. Then think about the fact that you and your family will suffer when you are held responsible for injuring or killing someone.

On the same note, pedestrians must open their eyes and realize that even though you are in this very safe little ski resort called Whistler, that does not mean the road rules are any different and that vehicles cannot hurt or kill you – they can! Don't wander aimlessly across roads or through car parks.

Lee McCleery

Whistler

RR bridges and people

Just north of Pemberton there is a railway crossing of the Lillooet River. About five years ago the BCR constructed a walkway on the bridge for the use of railway employees only. It was not deemed safe enough for the public's use. Attempts in the past have been made to discourage the public from using the bridge through enforcement ($115 fine) of the trespass act. This has proved ineffective as is shown by counts of 300-500 pedestrian crosses per week at current levels, sure to increase as the weather improves.

A missing section of the guard rail that is supposed to help prevent people from falling into the river midway along the walkway is testimony to a suggestion that BCR/CN is more interested in their liability position than actual safety concerns.

I have been personally using this crossing for 35 years to access the beautiful forested Crown land on the river frontage south of the tracks, always aware of the risks but aware also of how minuscule they are compared with the risks of travelling on Highway 99. I think I am not alone in this declaration.

The bridge crossing is an important link from Pemberton to recreational lands east of the crossing. I urge BCR/CN, local government and other stakeholders such as the PVTA to come to an agreement which would provide a safe, legal crossing for the benefit of all users.

Hugh Naylor

Pemberton

Splendour faces diminishment

It’s a sad state of affairs when our government plans to develop our parks, under the guise of accessibility for seniors and families (Local groups wary of proposal to build lodges in parks; Pique, March 17). What hubris to suggest that parks are a convenient vehicle for revenue generation. These actions, however, are consistent with the behaviour of our Premier who runs ads proclaiming that B.C. is the best place on earth, yet he vacations in Hawaii. Did anyone else notice the palm trees beside Gordo’s desk in Adrian Raeside’s cartoon last week?

I know modern economic theory is predicated on (unending?) growth and postmodernism embraces contradiction, but that doesn’t mean we have to destroy natural values, especially in our parks. I must admit I’m worried that the public is too preoccupied with its own boredom and just doesn’t care about parks (especially when I see Hummers with mags and low-profile Pirelli racing tires). It makes about as much sense as Austin Minis with monster truck tires. Or private 80 bed lodges in parks.

Mark Grist

North Vancouver/Nelson

Raven's Crest unsustainable

I have been a homeowner in Pemberton for the past four years and recently decided to build a new home in the exciting new development on the Pemberton Benchlands. It is my understanding that the SLRD and the village of Pemberton are committed to encouraging high-density growth within the existing village boundaries. A consultant is developing a neighbourhood plan for the Benchlands, and I support keeping the growth of Pemberton focused there. Outside these areas, developers are free to subdivide according to the current zoning, which enhances the character of our beautiful town and valley.

I am concerned that there is a group of developers bribing the community with plans of a hockey arena so that they can make huge amounts of cash while destroying the current village vision and character. I have yet to speak to anyone that supports this model of Pemberton as a sprawling community stretching from one end of the valley to the other. Stop the senseless development; let's stick to the plan and make Pemberton what it can be within the current boundaries. This development model is unsustainable. Another 357 homes will add more explosive growth to Pemberton, and we will lose the small-town character that attracted us here in the first place.

Bart and Lee Ann Barczynski

Pemberton

 

Whistler’s five ton challenge

The other day as I scraped dog crap off my two-year-old’s shoes for the third time in two days, I asked myself what is the problem here? My rough guess is that there are over 2,000 dogs living and visiting Whistler on any given day. Even a small dog is capable of creating 2 pounds of feces every single day and large breeds (most common in Whistler) deposit up to 5 pounds. That means 10,000 pounds of crap is being dumped on our parks, yards, trails, roads, and playgrounds every day. That means more than 3 million pounds per year!

Depending on the time of year and how much bioactivity is happening in the ground, it can take over three months to break down naturally, which leaves 90,000 pounds lying around at any given time to step in, roll over or worse.

The Muni is doing its part; they have free scoop dispensers at all high traffic areas, garbage bins always within a short walking distance and bylaws that require owners to pick up after their animals.

So why all the mess? I would be a hypocrite to deny it, every dog walker has left the odd one behind because of time constraints, a lack of scoop, soft stools, or no one was watching, but I think this has become more than the odd one left "behind". The problem we have is a lack of respect for other outdoor users, if no one is watching right now that does not mean some kids won’t be waiting for the bus in the same spot tomorrow.

I have witnessed highly recognizable dog owners in Whistler turn a blind eye to their dog’s duty. P.F. is a modern miracle, able to ride his bike with two blind eyes as his dog has two dumps at a playground full of children. The nice girl at the veterinary clinic with two dogs of her own seemed oblivious to her dog’s pile as she waited to cross the highway. Even the avalanche dog handler bound by a code of ethics has been caught with his… err, dog’s pants down, so to speak.

What can we do as a community? Don’t ignore the problem; if you see someone walking away from a steaming pile say something! I’m sure you are tired of scraping poo off your shoes, bike tires, skateboard grip-tape, and kids too.

Dog owners, if you don’t have a scoop, here is a simple and foolproof solution; open any near-by garbage can and voila! I guarantee there will be at least one paper coffee cup with a plastic lid, grab that cup, dump the last of the latte out, and you have the best poop scoop ever. You don’t have to touch the stuff; you can use the lid to help roll in any stubborn turds, then you can put the lid back on and carry the load back to the receptacle and no one sees you carrying a bag-o-crap, only an unassuming warm cup of mocha smoothie. Unsanitary you say? Better than the obvious health risks of having 90,000 pounds of crap on the ground!

Brian Finestone

President

CARDA

Stay positive

I often read the letters written in the paper in Whistler. It might seem strange for a tourist like me, who only comes up to Whistler for six weeks a year, to do so, but it is a keen way for me to gain insight into the community I love visiting. In fact, it’s difficult for me to read them without having to suppress a tinge of jealousy of you people who are lucky enough to call the community of Whistler your own.

What I cannot understand is how a select few of you have developed such poor attitudes and have taken to publishing outrageous lies and quoting others for no other reason than to grind your own personal political axes. You are acting like children, squabbling and screaming over a prize toy that no one else has. If you keep fighting like you are, you may end up damaging it. Keep a positive attitude or keep quiet. That’s what my mother taught me when I was five.

Sandi White

Seattle

Who’s taking responsibility?

When a beloved pet is old and terminally ill, its owner may take it to the vet to be humanely put down by injection.

If the same owner decided to end his pet's suffering by locking it in its kennel and depriving it of food and water until it died the SPCA would charge him with cruelty.

In the state of Texas a condemned murderer is executed by lethal injection. He is not locked in his cell and deprived of food and water for however long it takes to die naturally of dehydration and starvation.

Why is it that a woman whose only crime is to be brain damaged can be condemned to a long cruel death by dehydration?

I will not argue the pros and cons of whether Terri Schiavo should be kept alive in her "vegetative state" because I do not know whether she can recognize her family or will ever get better. But what if she can feel pain?

Nobody knows what pain she is going through right now with no food or water, or what pain she will eventually suffer before she dies. She cannot tell us.

Whoever condemns her to death, whoever says her brain is too damaged for her to keep on living, should have the courage to administer a lethal injection, and end her suffering humanely.

Oh, but the doctors can't do that because it is euthanasia and that opens up a minefield of moral problems. Shades of Nazi Germany, fear in Alzheimer patients in extended care homes.

So a lingering death by dehydration and starvation is all right because it is a "natural" death, and a quick and humane death is murder.

Someone should take responsibility for the barbaric way this poor handicapped woman is being slowly killed in the name of the law.

Ruth Buzzard

Whistler