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VANOC offers more time after staff negotiations

Council to decide on 30-day extension at next meeting

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Smith-Valade said this week that VANOC recognizes the magnitude of Whistler’s decision and that’s why they were willing to give them an extension.

"It’s a big decision," she said. "There was certainly a feeling from Whistler that they wanted to make sure there had been adequate public input into the process."

When asked why they choose to offer 30 more days specifically Smith-Valade said: "We wanted to find a timeframe that wouldn’t put the project in jeopardy," she said. "We’re hopeful that 30 days is enough."

The news of the extension was also a surprise to Councillor Ken Melamed, though he too was pleased to hear council now had more time to make a decision.

"Most of the proposals here are fairly complex," he said. "I think we should take as much time as VANOC is prepared to give us."

The extra month, said Councillor Gord McKeever, means they can now engage the community more and "give some serious consideration to alternatives."

Wells said an extra month isn’t enough time to do that. A 30-day extension, she said, is just paying "lip service" to having more community engagement.

As Whistler delays, the future of an arena, and a local Junior A hockey team, remains on hold for Squamish.

If council takes the $8 million, Squamish expects to get money from VANOC to build an arena, fit for the Paralympic sledge hockey events.

The Oct. 31 st deadline doesn’t have a huge impact on negotiations said Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland, however he would be concerned if there was another extension beyond that.

"Obviously our community is excited about the opportunity with the Paralympic arena but we’d also like to find out as quickly as possible whether in fact it’s going to happen or not," said Sutherland. "While a delay to Oct. 31 st might not be ideal, it shouldn’t make a huge difference to us. There would be a concern probably with any delay beyond that because it could jeopardize our ability to attract a major tenant for the building."

Squamish is working on a deal that could see the Junior A Chilliwack Chiefs franchise playing out of a new Squamish arena.

In the meantime, as Whistler comes to a conclusion on the future of this arena, staff will prepare a report with the details on the public open house at the end of August. Almost 300 community members attended that open house, many of whom filled out comment forms on the arena.

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