The municipality and Whistler 2020 Development Corp. (WDC) have reversed course on a release that initially waived the two agencies from any future liabilities caused by repair work to Cheakamus Crossing's controversial heating system.
Last week council voted to lend $350,000 to municipal subsidiary WDC, the developer of Cheakamus Crossing, to make repairs to the District Energy System (DES) heating units that require it. The DES is a closed ambient heating system that has cost some residents major headaches and thousands of dollars in repairs since it was installed ahead of the 2010 Olympics.
To take part in the program, homeowners were asked to fill out and send an application to WDC. Just hours after it went online on Monday, Oct. 24, however, residents were surprised to find a waiver added to the end of the form releasing "the WDC and RMOW from any action, cause of action, liability, damage or other loss" caused by the repair work. The release was removed from the form hours later after frustrated residents started contacting the RMOW and WDC.
"I was totally blindsided," said Tony Routley, resident representative on the Cheakamus Crossing DES group. "In all of our negotiations, this is not what we talked about."
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden explained the release, which was meant to apply to any repairs done in Phase 1 of the program, is a standard business practice and was included at the advice of the RMOW's legal counsel.
"Then when we spoke with some of the Cheakamus Crossing homeowners, they didn't really understand what (the release) was driving at and they said some things that were not particularly kind, so we thought we don't really need this and it's going to unnecessarily antagonize people in the community, so we took it out," she added.
Wilhelm-Morden noted there was no obligation to consult with the neighbourhood before the release was included.
"We didn't have to consult anybody to put it in and we didn't have to consult anybody to take it out," she explained. "It just seemed to be unnecessarily antagonistic."
The release also stated that the WDC and the RMOW "make no warrant with respect to the quality of workmanship which may be performed by any qualified contractor" doing the repair work. Any technician carrying out the work has been vetted and approved by the WDC. With the release removed, however, Wilhelm-Morden said WDC would cover any repair costs that may be required in addition to the initial site visit during Phase 1.
There was other confusion around the removal of a commitment by the WDC to pay for a system flush in the units requiring it that was included in the original application. It has since been added back to the form. Wilhelm-Morden confirmed its removal was a simple clerical error.
"(RMOW) staff were working from an old document that didn't have the system flush on it, and then unfortunately that document went live before anybody realized the flush wasn't on there," she said.
After the confusion was cleared up, Routley took to the DES Facebook page to thank the WDC and RMOW for their work.
"This is a good program and I thank RMOW and WDC for implementing it," he wrote.
More information on the Home DES Repair and Maintenance Program can be found at www.cheakamuscrossing.com/residents.