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Pique n' your interest

Whistler Election, the sequel

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Although just 1,390 of Whistler’s estimated 10,000 residents turned out to vote on Jan. 11 to resolve a tie between incumbent Dave Kirk and newcomer Marianne Wade, at last Whistler council has six members and one mayor – a complete set.

With such a small turnout of voters, it’s a safe bet that the bulk of the votes went to the candidate who enjoyed the most public support, but also was the most effective in mobilizing friends and family to get out to the polls on Saturday. Just 43 votes separated winner Marianne Wade from runner-up David Kirk, or three per cent of all votes cast.

It’s hardly what you would call a sweeping mandate, but it’s close enough for disco. So let’s boogie.

Promises were made, a pecking order of issues was established, and though the voter turnout on Saturday was depressingly low, we should assume that the public is still at least mildly interested in local politics. Therefore, they’re probably going to expect some action.

While all of the candidates were coming from different places their priorities appeared to be the same. The issue that dominated this election was the continuing crisis of both short- and long-term employee housing.

People are generally realistic in that they won’t expect housing projects to pop up all over town next summer, but they’re going to want to see some progress made to match the strong rhetoric used in the election.

At the core of any council debate will be bed units – will Whistler continue to not count employee beds as bed units, or will they make a meaningful effort to cap the growth of the town using real numbers, thereby making good on their sustainability initiatives?

Personally, I believe a bed is a bed because at the end of the day the total number of beds, employees and visitors, is going to determine how many people I have to evade and dodge on the ski out at the end of the day.

The answer to this problem might be to count employee bed units separately from the whole, make a few minor allowances for growth and protect existing bed units from tear-downs and renovations.

In talking with Councillor Ken Melamed during the campaign, he noted that there were over 20 applications for house tear-downs in Whistler last year. Although a few of those houses were relatively new and in the million-dollar range, a large number of the homes were older, and many probably provided at least some housing for employees.

Picture this scenario: a developer purchases a three-bedroom with a two-bedroom suite, and tears it down. Instead of rebuilding the house as it was, the developer takes away the two-bedroom suite and builds a five-bedroom luxury home. No extra bed units were required, but at the end of the day the pool of available employee bed units is reduced by two.

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