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Resort Municipality of Whistler responds to local pressure group

Whistler Coalition of Concerned Citizens to discuss feedback this week



The Resort Municipality of Whistler has sent a 12-page response to the Whistler Coalition of Concerned Citizens (WCCC) to address various concerns raised by the newly-formed pressure group.

The document, written by RMOW Administrator (CAO) Bill Barratt, is a point-form rebuttal to WCCC's criticisms. The group's members have chosen to remain anonymous and without a spokesperson, but a member stated they would be reviewing the document at a committee meeting on Feb. 23 and welcomed all feedback and data provided by the municipality.

Various advertisements in Pique , along with information posted on their website state that the group was formed "to be the citizen's voice, the voice of the silent majority," adding that it "intend(s) on being factual and non-confrontational. We are concerned with the increased taxes and fees. We are frustrated with the parking problems, unresolved asphalt plant, the library closures and many other issues we currently face."

A hot button debate circulating for over a year, the municipal process around pay parking has been flagged by the WCCC as a critical misuse of public dollars.

"213 days since pay parking in lots 1-2-3 began and an estimated $2,780,530 in lost business sales, 36 lost jobs!" reads the WCCC site's electronic newsletter. "We are very concerned that an announcement in February may include news that the RMOW and our Mayor and Council will be turning the free Lots 4 and 5 into pay parking."

Barratt's response admitted that RMOW's revenue estimations for pay parking were off by half but debunked the accuracy of the numbers posted.

"Parking revenue from the Day Lots from June 28 to December 31, 2010 was approximately $1 million; however, revenue was projected to be approximately $2 million annually. This is significant new revenue for the RMOW," he said on page two of the document.

"We have heard complaints from some businesses about user pay parking. We have heard very little feedback, however, directly from our guests. Challenges that Village businesses face reflect the high Canadian dollar and other economic challenges being experienced globally and cannot simply be attributed to user pay parking."

The WCCC has also raised concerns regarding the Official Community Plan (OCP) process; questioning whether the public's ideas, suggestions, desires and vision are being reflected in the OCP document.

"We hope the RMOW isn't pushing this document through faster than necessary and that the finished OCP does truly reflect our shared community vision," states a WCCC website posting.

Barratt responded with a point form outline of opportunities provided for community engagement related to the OCP, including:

- The OCP update launch, Après in Action.

- Backyard Brainstorm workbooks, which were completed by 23 self-organized community groups made up of over 300 residents.

- A youth Community Asset Mapping Project (CAMP) Whistler.

- An Aging in Place Community Forum.

- A community workshop in November attended by 165 Whistler residents, who completed 203 OCP update workbooks; 132 workbooks were also completed by participants at home and returned to the municipality.

- A second homeowner's workshop hosted in North Vancouver by the RMOW and attended by 64 people.

- Participation by over 200 community members in working group sessions to discuss pre-draft policies in detail and to identify any policy gaps and fill them with innovative community-developed policy ideas to inform the OCP update.

The Sunday closure of the Whistler Public Library (WPL) has been a topic of concern for WCCC and the community.

Barratt clarified the funding structures of municipal departments and stated that the decision to close the library on Sundays was made by the Whistler Public Library Board, not by Whistler Council.

"The library budget for 2011 has not been cut. In fact, the library budget was increased by $26,629 for 2011, to provide for a four per cent increase in library payroll costs," he wrote. "Following the library's announcement that it would close its doors on Sundays and reduce hours of operation, at its December 21 meeting Council directed staff to work with the library board and staff to come up with a solution to address the budget shortfall identified by the library."

The WCCC will prepare and release a statement in response to Barratt's report in upcoming weeks.