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Rainbow will be home to 1,600 security guards

Council votes five to two in late application for temporary camp



Whistler is set to get even busier during the 2010 Games now that council has paved the way for a temporary security camp in the Rainbow subdivision.

Council's approval at Tuesday's meeting means 1,600 private security guards will be camped out in Whistler during the Games, with a smaller workforce there in the lead up to the Olympics and in the aftermath.

That added pressure on the resort, which is expected to host about 55,000 people per night during the Games, along with temporary housing at the athletes' village and at the Holborn site, could negatively affect the guest experience, said Councillor Ralph Forsyth.

He, along with Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, voted against the Temporary Commercial Use Permit (TCUP) application.

"There's a myriad of other reasons but to me that's the biggest one," said Forsyth.

"I fret that we're jeopardizing the experience of the guests who are here for the Olympic Games."

Council's debate, and its five to two vote, was evidence of the challenging decision, which they said came to them at the 11 th hour, long after they thought they had made all major planning decisions for the Games.

It also came as a blow to Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy who attended Tuesday's meeting.

At one time the 1,600-strong camp was slated for the Pemberton Industrial Park and Pemberton council had cleared the way for that development.

"I was extremely disappointed obviously," said Sturdy the following day.

"I don't see how we cannot take this as a lost opportunity, courtesy of Whistler."

He also questioned how Whistler could approve the camp within two weeks whereas Pemberton staff worked on the proposal for six months, fine tuning all the details.

The financial blow to Pemberton was top of Zeidler's mind as he outlined his opposition to the Rainbow plan.

He urged council to spread the Olympic wealth and excitement through the corridor.

Following council's decision, Zeidler said:

"When are we in this town going to stop being megalomaniacs? That it's all about us."

Todd Severson, project director for Contemporary Securities Canada (CSC) said, however, that even if council turned down the Rainbow plan, CSC would not have located the camp in Pemberton. He could not go into details about the negotiations.

"That wasn't the option that was being presented," said Severson "It was Rainbow or not, not Rainbow or Pemberton."

He has since offered an olive branch to Pemberton, initiating discussions about perhaps providing day excursions north for some of the security staff on their day's off.

"So that we can bring some of that business back to the community," he explained.

At the end of the day, however, what tipped the scales for Mayor Ken Melamed was the need to host the Olympic Games as best as Whistler can. Putting the camp in Whistler, close to the venues, would facilitate that, he said.

"I can see my way to supporting this," said the mayor, with the caveat that CSC continue the dialogue with the neighbouring Rainbow residents and ensure there are controls on noise, behaviour and light pollution from the development.

That's something on Severson's mind too.

"In the end we want to be good neighbours for them (the Rainbow residents)," he said.

That's one of the reasons why he arranged a meeting last Friday night at Rainbow's on-site sales office.

Severson wanted to put to rest any concerns he could for the residents who would be most impacted by the camp.

More than a dozen neighbours attended that meeting to express how they felt about the camp being on their doorstep. Among other things they raised concerns about the increased traffic, the noise, the light pollution and the fact that the residents will not get any compensation for the disruption.

With the decision put to rest now, once outspoken Rainbow homeowner Andrew Haig didn't have much to say the day after the meeting.

"Council has made its decision and that's the end of it," he said.

Severson said there would be ongoing consultation with neighbours as the camp begins to set up. CSC will have an e-mail address to highlight any concerns. And there will be a 24-hour hotline for immediate concerns once the camp is operational.

"Temporary camps, almost always, unless they're in a desert, need to be sympathetic to their neighbours," said Severson.

Council also directed staff to investigate the possibility of recouping the additional RCMP policing costs that come with adding a 1,600-person camp.