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Quarterly report shows snapshot of busy building season

Council looks for more information so applications don't languish at hall

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Whistler's building department has handled 615 new files in the first half of 2015, highlighting the busy building season in the resort.

The files include 141 building permits, 304 information requests and 128 plumbing permits. On top of that, the department is working on 296 applications from last year for a total of more than 900 files.

Just over half have been completed, with a further 250 approved and 184 in progress.

In his recent report to council, Whistler's manager of building services Joe Moonie said it makes for a "pretty productive second quarter" in his department, reflecting what is happening on the ground.

Bob Deeks, president of RDC Fine Homes, confirmed what the municipal stats are showing.

He's working on new single-family homes in Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish.

"We've seen a lot more interest in the last 18 months and that's resulted in permit applications for this year," said Deeks.

There has been a lot of movement on vacant land in particular, said Deeks, pointing to the Spring Creek neighbourhood.

"For a subdivision that sat with no activity for a long, long time, the value of the land dropped down to the point where it became really attractive and people not only bought the land, but they have executed construction on the homes," he said.

The report is the second quarterly update to council from the building and planning departments at the hall. Like the quarterly financial reporting, it's designed to provide a snapshot of activity in the resort and keep council in the loop. But the numbers alone aren't cutting it. Council wants more context, more information on specific files, particularly the significant projects, and what it takes to move through the red tape.

"There is definitely a lot moving through the hall but we want to get a status report on the ones that are taking more time," explained Councillor John Grills.

"If they are not moving through quickly, then why? And where can we help?"

Deeks said he hasn't run into any significant red tape problems at the hall but he's heard about them from others.

"My personal experience has been things move through reasonably quickly if the person or group making the applications provides all the required details," he said.

The process, he added, can get off track when submissions are incomplete.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden echoed Grills' request for more information at the July 21 council meeting — rezonings, in particular, are the ones that council hears about from community members. She wants to be better prepared to answered questions from constituents.

She stressed, however, that she doesn't want to make the task onerous.

The municipality's director of planning Mike Kirkegaard answered that staff wants to provide information that's valuable to council.

The planning department reflected the same busyness as the building department.

This year, in the first and second quarters, there have been 132 applications, including 45 development permits and seven rezonings. Of those planning applications, 63 have been approved, 10 withdrawn and 59 are in progress.

Kirkegaard called it a "sizable volume of activity" during his recent report to council.

This compares to last year's statistics for the same time period of 82 applications, 24 development permits and 15 rezonings.

"It's great to see this after quite a bit of time looking for this," said the mayor.

As to what the future holds in the building and planning departments, it's not clear the level of activity will sustain, despite the help from the falling dollar making it more and more attractive to foreign investors.

Deeks added: "Last year at this time we had a large number of inquiries. That translated into a lot of work for this year. I'm not seeing the same level of inquiry right now and I don't know what that means."

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