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RMOW to stay the course with festivals and events program

Council briefs: GLC canopy defeated, GranFondo Lot use approved, Petro-Canada rezoning



With room nights breaking records and room rates on the rise, the municipal Festivals, Events & Animation program is staying on track for 2015.

Details on next year's program were scant in the staff presentation to council on Tuesday, with the odd hint of potential new programs in the event line up such as Outerbike, Diner en Blanc and WOMAD, the World of Music, Arts and Dance festival.

"There's an element of: if it ain't broke, don't fix it," said John Rae, manager of strategic alliances in his presentation to council Tuesday night.

He pointed to what he called the "impressive results already" of the summer business, which has seen a new record of room nights in May and June. That's on top of record-breaking summer months in 2013.

On Tuesday council released $1.2 million to begin planning the 2015 program, a program that has been operating this year on $3.16 million.

"It sounds like a king's ransom," said Rae, adding that the money starts to disappear over a year of programming.

The early release of funding will target specific areas of the FE&A program namely: producing and promoting the second annual GO Fest in May and paying deposits for the Whistler Presents free concerts, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Whistler Street Entertainment. It will also go towards next year's marketing plan.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she would be remiss if she didn't pass along a suggestion from one of the young Mayor-for-the-Day contestants who suggested big screen TV's in Whistler Olympic Plaza for the next soccer World Cup.

While that was too late for this summer, Wilhelm-Morden asked if something like that could be considered.

"I'm not a soccer fan," said the mayor. "I'm not suggesting broadcasting all of them!"

Rae said they were open to all suggestions. TV screens, he said, are expensive.

The other part of the program is staying true to Whistler's brand.

Councillor Roger McCarthy, the council rep on the FE&A program, said: "The room nights really tell a story."

The push to wrap events around weekends and encourage longer stays is working.

He added: "We just need to keep on going in that direction."

Council axes GLC patio canopy

Whistler Blackcomb has been sent back to the drawing board over its plans for a large-scale canopy over the GLC patio.

In a five-to-one vote, Councillor Jayson Faulkner was absent, council not only broke ranks and ended its unfaltering unanimous voting record, but also voted against a staff recommendation that would see a canopy over the north patio of the GLC.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden questioned the canopy's intrusion on the so-called "hot spots," creating shade in Skier's Plaza. The design would impact the plaza from 4 p.m. onwards for one month out of the winter.

The overriding principle of Whistler's solar design guidelines, she pointed out, is that these hotspots not be impacted.

"I'm worried about the sun," she said.

"We know that there's going to be shadow as a result of this. That's not acceptable to me."

Other council members raised concerns about the scale and the design.

Councillor Andrée Janyk said of the design: "It takes away from the iconic aspect of the building, which I actually find quite pleasing."

Whistler Blackcomb wants to build the canopy to maximize use in the winter. The proposed retractable vinyl siding is a way of addressing a four-season patio.

It is not the first business to address this issue, but guidelines on vinyl sidings have yet to be developed.

"If we're going down the road with roll-down vinyl walls then let's establish some detail," said the mayor. "I think we really need to set the standard."

Councillor John Grills was the only member of council in support of the project.

"I support it because I think it's a really big deal for that square," he said.

Two neighbours also expressed concerns about the development permit, writing letters to council about the noise impacts from the GLC.

Carleton Lodge strata vice-chair Jeff Coombs said of the noise: "In recent years, noise from the GLC has been a source of ongoing concern and aggravation to our residential owners and guests, and is having a significant impact on the use and enjoyment of our properties."

This proposal could exacerbate it.

The mayor added: "It is such an important building in our village that we ought to make sure that it's the best that it can be."

Rezoning for Petro-Canada site

The vision for the long-abandoned Petro-Canada site in Creekside is clearer this week after council paved the way to rezone the uses on site.

The rezoning application will allow personal services and sport-good rentals and repairs at Creekside's newest building on London Lane, while at the same time deleting service station and automobile repair.

The rezoning will not allow, however, the rental of watercraft equipment such as kayaks, canoes and paddleboards and, according to the staff report to council, it's designed "to improve the opportunities and flexibilities for tenants in the building over the long term."

The owners also provided a Transportation Assessment for the site to address council's concerns for the 3,600 square foot single-storey building.

It showed that the plan for the new building is to include a small café, or a fast food restaurant of 970 square feet, while the remaining space could be for general retail use and professional services.

The traffic assessment showed that parking and access configuration planned for the site should "be adequate to accommodate worst-case usage conditions during the peak season."

Council approved further review of the zoning and gave the green light for staff to prepare a zoning amendment bylaw.

More liquor seats at golf club patio

The Fairmont Chateau Golf Course Clubhouse is looking to almost triple the number its licensed patio load from 30 to 87 persons.

The main concern of noise was addressed: management agreed to turn off any amplified music on the patio by 10 p.m.

In a letter to council, licensing specialist Susan Mander of Rising Consultants wrote: "It will further diversify this luxurious hospitality venue nestled at the base of Blackcomb Mountain."

Council approved the change, which will now go to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

RMOW creates volunteers policy

A dinner of thanks just doesn't cut it when it comes to those municipal volunteers who go above and beyond the call of duty.

Now there's more reason to give up time to some of the resort municipality's roughly 18 committees and boards.

Council has approved a Civic Service Awards Policy that gives formal recognition of outstanding achievements by an individual "to praise their spirit of contribution, community engagement and exemplary civic contributions."

The policy states that each year mayor and council may choose up to five individuals for a civic service award.

The idea is to not only recognize volunteer contributions, but also to build positive awareness of the people who make lasting impressions on the municipality and to encourage further participation.

GranFondo to use Lot 4

Whistler's main free village parking lot, Lot 4, will again be commandeered for a major event this summer — September's RBC GranFondo.

The Lot 4 "Finish Plaza" will be dressed up with a bike corral, stretching lounge, video screen, massage tent, medical facilities and sponsor activations. Just across the road at Whistler Olympic Plaza there will be an awards stage, entertainment and a fenced-in liquor service areas from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The maximum capacity of that area including volunteers and event staff is 6,000.

Council gave its blessing for a catering license capacity of over 500 people for that afternoon event. Minors will be allowed on site but only those 19 years and older will have a wristband to be served alcohol.

The majority of Lot 4 was also commandeered for the Ironman this summer, an issue that drew the ire of some local residents and employees unable to find free parking in the village.

The mayor said she would look into those complaints, but on Tuesday, Aug. 6 said:

"If we were taking over those lots for events on a regular basis and many, many days in a row, I think it would be something worth looking at."