While mayor and council typically receive letters from the community requesting action, one included in the Oct. 2 council package was especially succinct.
"Please take action on installing sidewalks in Function Junction," it read."This is long overdue."
The project is indeed one that's long been percolating, with Function locals and business owners first raising the issue in 2013, and again last year when the sidewalks were once again missing from the annual municipal budget.
In the 2018 budget, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) earmarked $200,000 for sidewalks in Function Junction, with preliminary work already taking place, said general manager of infrastructure James Hallisey.
"Our roads crew was doing some preparation down there late last week and early this week," Hallisey said at the Oct. 2 council meeting.
"They were distracted today by plowing some snow off the roads, but I think they'll be back at that very shortly."
RMOW crews will be installing a two-metre wide asphalt shoulder for pedestrians and cyclists from SMD Automotive to Proteck Industries on Alpha Lake Road over the next three weeks, a municipal spokesperson confirmed.
The work is part of a larger overall plan for Function, which was discussed and agreed to with a group representing businesses in the area.
"In 2016, the RMOW widened the railway crossing to allow safe pedestrian access and constructed a paved path from Highway 99 to the rail crossing. Ditches were filled and shoulders were also widened from the rail crossing to provide a safe pedestrian route to Olives Market," the spokesperson said.
"The association of businesses committed to linking the existing storefront sidewalks on both sides of Millar Creek Road and along the southwest portion of Alpha Lake Road (opposite from SMD automotive)."
NEW COUNCIL PROCEDURE BYLAW GETS FIRST THREE READINGS
Also on Oct. 2, council gave three readings to a new council procedure bylaw.
"The intent behind this update is first and foremost to ensure that we're meeting all of the legislative requirements, and secondly to align our existing practice with a clear set of rules and procedures and thirdly just to make sure that we're up to speed with what our corridor communities are doing," said municipal clerk Brooke Browning.
Along with several "housekeeping" updates, the new bylaw contains some key changes, Browning said: removing a one-amendment-per-councillor-per-motion limit; clearer prescriptions for delegations (highlighting the discretion of the Chief Administrative Officer and Corporate Officer in approving them, and outlining topics that may not be addressed, like a bylaw after a public hearing, any legal issues facing council, requests for funding and subject matter beyond council's jurisdiction); removing the procedure for a "Notice of Motion," and; allowing council to make a motion to request staff to review and report back on Committee of the Whole topics.
Councillor Sue Maxwell had several questions about the new bylaw, including wondering why the CAO, and not the mayor, is in charge of approving delegations.
"The mayor is normally accountable for the public whereas the CAO is not," Maxwell said. "Is that the best practice from other communities?"
The proposed change is "very similar" to three bylaws reviewed in Squamish, North Van and West Van, Browning said.
"This is kind of considered a staff-level planning decision in terms of how we should best be scheduling delegations to come to council," Browning said, adding that if council or the mayor had in interest in seeing a certain delegation they could relay it to the CAO.
Maxwell, who is not seeking re-election on Oct. 20, moved to defer the bylaw until after the next council is sitting.
"I think it does make more sense to me for the next council to be able to sit down, discuss this and come up with a system together," she said. "There's also a lot more power when the sitting council approves it, because then that's signifying that everybody on that council is buying into that."
But without a seconder, Maxwell's motion died on the floor.
Coun. Cathy Jewett asked how onerous it would be for the new council to update the bylaw.
"It depends on the changes you're proposing, but my intention with bringing this new council procedure bylaw at this juncture for this council is really to have a new, cleaner, fresher document for the new council," Browning said. "I'm planning to utilize this document in our training orientation that we have scheduled in November, and at that point I'd be more than willing to chat with the new council about other changes that they may want to see incorporated or made to the bylaw."
RMOW TO PURCHASE VAN WEST UTILITY
When the RMOW held a public information session regarding its proposed purchase of the Van West Waterworks Utility (VWWU) in Function Junction, only one member of the public showed up.
"We all agreed (that) was a good indication that our outreach through the mail out was positive and everyone down there is quite happy with this program we have," said manager of development services Jeff Ertel in a presentation to council on Oct. 2.
With council's authorization, the RMOW will soon assume control of the VWWU—the last privately owned water system in the municipality.
The system provides potable water and fire protection to Function Junction.
About two years ago, the water management branch of the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations indicated that "non-compliance issues" with the utility were "problematic," Ertel said.
While ownership remained unchanged, the RMOW assumed operation and maintenance duties of the system in 2016, with the province overseeing administrative responsibilities like billing.
"RMOW crews have been operating this system for the past 22 months at a full cost recovery arrangement with no cost to the taxpayers, and staff have been in negotiations with the owner using a previously discussed purchase price amount of $250,000, which is roughly equal to the annual revenue generated each year for the service area," Ertel said, adding that the change comes with some benefits.
"It would align this utility with the remainder of our municipality, it will provide the same level of service that customers enjoy, it will provide security for the delivery of the water supply, (and) it will enhance fire protection," Ertel said.
"We have an enhanced maintenance program such as water main flushing and hydrant maintenance, there will be improved water quality, water quality testing and reporting, and better overall management of the system, such as a buildup of financial reserves."
The purchase price of $250,000 is contained in the RMOW's 2018 budget.
VARIANCE FOR TELUS BUILDING APPROVED
After sending staff back to gather more info at its Aug. 14 meeting, Whistler council was satisfied enough to grant development permit and development variance permits for alterations to a Telus building at 7200 Lorimer Rd. on Oct. 2.
The proposal is for a one-storey building addition that will be used for office space.
When it first came to council in August, council asked what the building would be used for, if the owner had considered alternative office locations and potential impacts on traffic.
The owner did consider other spaces, said planning analyst Jessie Abraham, but found that would increase commute times (and Telus' carbon footprint), possibly affect service times and increase traffic to the location.
In response to traffic questions, "the owner responded that there is no intention to increase the number of staff or equipment at the building," Abraham said.
"There will be no increase in traffic to the building, there will be no increase of parking at the building, and confirmed that the space will not be subleased."