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Municipality on standby as storm brings heavy rainfall to Whistler

UPDATE: RMOW sets up self-serve sandbag station for residents at Public Works Yard, Ski Callaghan closes for weekend

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A rainfall warning remains in effect for Whistler with long episodes of rain, at times heavy, continuing.

Up to 100mm is expected for Howe Sound by Saturday morning. Heavy downpours can cause flash floods and water pooling on roads. Environment Canada is warning people to watch for possible washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts.

Environment Canada meteorologists will update alerts as required at weather.gc.ca/warnings/report_e.html?bc39. You can email reports of severe weather to pacificstorm@ec.gc.ca or tweet with the hashtag #BCStorm.

Municipal staff is on standby thanks to a weather alert calling for 100 to 200 mm of rainfall by the end of the week. On Friday, Feb. 6, the RMOW announced it had set up a self-serve sandbag station for residents that is accessible 24 hours a day until the risk of flood subsides located outside the gates of the Public Works Yard on Highway 99. Bags, sand and shovels are being provided free of charge.

“The municipality will be monitoring the situation,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden during her mayor’s report at Tuesday’s meeting (Feb.3).

“Batten down the hatches.”

Staff, she added, is paying particular attention to the Tapley’s Farm neighbourhood. Two homes in that neighbourhood were badly affected during a flood in December when Crabapple Creek spilled its banks

That was on Wednesday Dec. 10 when more than 70 mm of total precipitation fell in one day breaking the 1998 record of one-day rainfall.

When asked if it was the municipality or individual property owners who should be sandbagging against flood, the mayor said: “If it was my property, I’d be out there sandbagging.”

The municipality is also looking at more permanent measures that could be taken in the future, such as creating berms.

Meanwhile challenging weather conditions have forced Ski Callaghan to close temporarily over the BC Family Day long weekend.

The closure is due to the recent intense weather systems and forecast for the coming days. Whistler Olympic Park and Callaghan Country Wilderness Adventures, which form the joint venture Ski Callaghan, will re-assess the situation on Tuesday.

The decision has been made to preserve the snow left on the trails. Heavy rain and standing water are currently making it impossible to groom until at least Tuesday.

Skiers, snowshoers and fans of the other activities available, like biathlon and tobogganing, can obtain trail condition updates on www.whistlersportlegacies.com.

The promotional offer of a 50 per cent discount on day tickets for BC Family Day on February 9 has been rescheduled to March 23 to give families a chance to hopefully enjoy a truly snowy day at Ski Callaghan in March.

Mons development to link Valley Trail with underpass

Bikers, dog walkers, and commuters living at the north end of Whistler may have a seamless Valley Trail path to Nesters by the end of 2015.

On Tuesday, council approved plans that would allow the developers of the large industrial site at Mons, on the west side of the highway north of Nesters, to build an underpass at the railway, rather than the approved overpass originally in development plans.

It is cheaper and easier to build than the overpass — cheaper by 22 per cent, which makes a difference not only to the bottom line of the developers, but also to the municipality, which is responsible for part of the costs of the trail.

Engineers have pinned the cost of an overpass at more than $1.9 million while the underpass will cost roughly $1.62 million.

The municipality’s portion of that is $718,000, and is subject to approval in the 2015 municipal budget. The municipality is also on the line for costs to finish off the Valley Trail by Cypress Place, connecting the northern edge of the underpass to the new neighbourhood south of Meadow Park.

That cost, too, would be included in the 2015 budget — yet to be approved

“The underpass has to be done in the driest part of the year,” said Steve Bayly, one of the site developers before Tuesday’s council meeting. “Likely August.”

Councillor Steve Anderson raised concerns about the low-lying area and the water table at the site.

“Initially staff were a little skeptical about going underneath given where the water table is,” admitted Jan Jansen, general manager of resort experience, adding that the municipality engaged engineers to prove out the plan.

“We’re satisfied that that solution will obviously work, and save the municipality and the developer some costs.”

The straight underpass will be enclosed, less than 31 metres in length, and pedestrians will be able to see the exit from the entrance.

It will be lit and painted white to address safety issues, providing uninterrupted a Valley Trail route from Rainbow to Nesters on the west side of Highway 99.

This is part of the amenity zoning for the Nesters Crossing lands. Developers are unable to build beyond 500 square metres until the underpass is completed, among other things.

Included in the bylaw amendment were additional restrictions on the permitted uses on the site, as well as the density limits. These were already written into the restrictive covenant on the land. The bylaw prohibits any outdoor motorized recreation, rifle facility or paintball facility or any uses that “would generate noise or dust that is likely to cause a nuisance to owners, occupiers or users of adjacent or nearby lands.”

The bylaw amendment also places additional density limits on the amount of development for the site — the maximum permitted floor space ratio is 0.5 per development parcel as well as a maximum buildable gross floor area of 18,580 square metres (roughly 200,000 square feet).

Councillor Jack Crompton deadpanned: “Congratulations to the proponent for digging this deep.

“Going forward this is an important link for the Valley Trail system.”

RMOW to bid on FCM

New rules are preventing Whistler from bidding on the large Federation of Canadian Municipality’s conference, but that doesn’t mean it can’t make its case to attract smaller FCM meetings to the resort.

The municipality is looking to secure the much smaller board-of-directors meetings in the future. Two are slated for 2017 and council agreed that Whistler should bid on both in the hopes of securing one.

The rules have changed since Whistler last hosted the FCM in 2009 — a conference that brought more than 2,000 delegates to Whistler. It is one of the biggest conferences Whistler has ever held — so large that the event was spread out throughout the resort in hotel meeting spaces as well as the conference centre.

“The host city guidelines now state that the entire conference must be held in one building,” wrote Shannon Story, manager of legislative services in her report to council. “The Whistler Conference Centre is not large enough to host the entire conference under its roof.”

The much smaller board of directors meetings could bring 150 delegates to Whistler.

If the municipality were successful, it would be responsible for a delegates welcome reception, delegates cocktail and dinner reception, complimentary computer equipment and a technician available on-call during the event.

A preliminary budget is set at $30,000.

Whistler’s water storage to double

The municipality is making plans to double Whistler’s water storage capacity in the form of a new reservoir.

Council is applying for a Crown land lease that will pave the way for a new reservoir on Whistler Mountain, not far from the existing Olympic Reservoir, which is reaching the end of its lifespan and cannot hold enough water for the town.

“This reservoir is a critical piece of village infrastructure,” said Michael Day, manager of utilities. It is so critical, he added, that it couldn’t be demolished without the new reservoir first being in place.

The issue of Whistler’s water storage shortage was raised during recent studies looking at the overall water master plan. It shows that the village could have a water shortage in the event of a large-scale fire, or a drought during high occupancy.

“We would potentially be short on water in the village,” said Day.

The new site is located below where the Fitzsimmons Chairlift and the Whistler Gondola converge. It will be designed so as not be as tall as the 30-metre high Olympic Reservoir.

Whistler Blackcomb has provided a letter of support for the initiative.

Lost Lake bylaw moving forward

Council had another chance to consider what has become a controversial bylaw amendment limiting uses at Lost Lake Park.

An administrative glitch at the previous council meeting meant only first and second readings of the bylaw, which prohibits hikers, dog walkers, and fat bikes in the park, were approved. Council must give three readings of a bylaw before officially adopting it into law.

At Tuesday’s meeting council gave unanimous support for third reading of the bylaw, which will include a $100 fine, but not without raising some concerns.

“I think this bylaw addresses something in the short term,” said Councillor Jack Crompton.

He, along with other members of council, is concerned this is not a long-term solution to deal with all the stakeholders interested in using the Lost Lake trails.

“I would like to see something a little more nuanced come forward next year, if we could,” Crompton added.

His sentiments were echoed by Councillor Jen Ford who added: “I too would like to see a little more diversity in the trails for next year.”

As for fat bikes, she added: “We can’t ignore them. They are here.”

Councillor John Grills also raised the issue of the last two challenging snow seasons in the valley and what that means for the future of the Nordic trails in the village.

What is the long-term plan for the winter use of those village trails, he asked.

Council is set to consider adoption of the Lost Lake trail bylaw at a future meeting.