Local police could soon have more back up at hand by way of community volunteers patrolling Whistler’s streets.
In a presentation to council Monday, Mike Wintemute, who is a director on the Healthy Communities committee, lobbied for support of a local branch of the B.C. Citizens Patrol.
“They’re basically the eyes and ears of the RCMP,” explained Wintemute, who was looking for council’s support in principle of the project before taking it to the next step.
Among the tasks this all-volunteer group could be charged with are patrolling public parks, underground parking lots or those neighbourhoods that are not actively patrolled by the police.
They don’t get out of their cars and chase criminals, said Wintemute, rather observe and report suspicious or criminal activity.
This frees up police resources.
The idea to create a Whistler branch of Citizens Patrol was born out of concerns at the Healthy Communities committee about escalating violence and rude behaviour in the village.
Citizens Patrol has been operating for more than 20 years in North America and has some 120,000 members, 5,000 of which are in B.C.
RCMP Cpl. Steve Wright backed up Wintemute’s request for council’s endorsement of the project, citing previous positive experiences with Citizens Patrol in other communities.
“I could speak for an hour, easily, on the success of the program,” said Cpl. Wright.
Critical to its success, however, is having a dedicated group of volunteers to draw from as well as support from the local police. The group would also need a base to operate out of, insurance, gas money and money for equipment.
Wintemute assured council he was not looking for financial support at this time and suggested the possibility of finding that support from local businesses, which would benefit from added patrols.
Council unanimously supported the idea.
Mayor Ken Melamed said: “I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t do this, under the assumption we can manage the costs.”
Green building review requested
Council reinforced its commitment to green building standards as it approved a major renovation to the Coast Whistler Hotel.
It has now asked for a third-party, post-construction review of the green building commitments outlined by the developer.
“We need some kind of measure… that tells us how we’re doing on the green building side of things,” said Councillor Tim Wake.
The developer has written a letter to council outlining their “intent to strive towards a more sustainable development….” A preliminary review shows the greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 16 to 18 per cent based on the work that will be performed.
The mayor questioned the number and asked that it be verified.
Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, however, praised the work toward green building initiatives, highlighting the decision to forego using big wooden beams that come from old growth trees, instead using glue-lam beams.
The Coast renovations include the replacement of the entire roof and exterior stucco as well as adding new balconies to the second, third and fourth floors and patios at grade level.
It is expected the hotel will change from its current two star rating to a three and a half star rating, which will see a corresponding rise in room rates.
Mayor Melamed expressed his disappointment at that change, reminding council in its Commercial Core 1 policy it rejected the notion that hotels and businesses need to add more space in order to renovate existing buildings. He said they must find other creative ways to entice renovations, rather than adding density or increasing price point.
Councillor Gord McKeever dismissed those concerns. He said a hotel that hasn’t reinvested in a similar way would ultimately slide down the star rating scale and fill the niche once occupied by the Coast.
The renovations are expected to begin in October, with the major exterior structural work completed by November 2008 and exterior painting, detailing and landscaping finished by August 2009.
Council has placed a 219 covenant on the development permit which prohibits exterior construction from the end of October 2009 until early April 2010 to ensure there are no unsightly construction zones during the 2010 Games.
The hotel is expected to reopen in October 2009.