More than $200,000 could be made at the BC Transit facility if commercial opportunities are allowed to flourish there.
And Whistler wants a piece of that action.
On Tuesday council moved ahead with zoning amendments to pave the way for the first commercial operations at the BC Transit facility, perhaps setting the stage for more commercial operations at Transit centres elsewhere in the province.
The zoning changes will allow Transit to rent bus parking, the diesel fuelling station and the bus washing station at a fee. The $23.5 million facility is under-utilized, built for 50 buses with only 23 serving the community at the moment.
The bus parking contract already secured by BC Transit will generate $40,000 per year. It deals with parking for one anchor tenant.
The municipality will get $17,000 the first year, increasing to roughly $20,000 in later years. That money will go back into transit services in Whistler, as will BC Transit's cut of the money.
At first council appeared reticent to share its views.
"Any questions?" Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden asked her team, to silence.
"My goodness, quiet bunch."
She went on to explain why she was supporting the proposal — namely to mitigate the construction costs of the large capital project, but also to have some say on remedial work that could be done to the site at council's request. The site has been exempt from municipal land use bylaws because Transit and the landowner, BC Hydro, are both Crown corporations. Third-party operators like private bus companies, however, are not exempt.
After the mayor spoke, the rest of council loosened up a little.
Councillor Jack Crompton expressed some reservations about his support.
"I find it difficult when government gets into business," he said.
Councillor Duane Jackson urged him to look at the bigger issues such as getting the private buses out of the free parking in the day skier lots.
Other councillors expressed their support given that the facility is underutilized and this could be a way for the municipality to exercise some control on the site.
"I feel like we're outside the fence right now," said Councillor Roger McCarthy, adding that once the municipality gets "inside the fence" it could have more control on what he described as "one of the worst eyesores."
Crompton explained that he wouldn't vote in favour of the deal if he didn't see the upsides too.
"I want to be clear that there are downsides," he added.
The council report doesn't reveal too much about future opportunities on the site.
"BC Transit's Commercial Services Business Case presents a number of different possible future revenue opportunities," states the report. "The high-side net revenue projections range beyond $200,000 per year, if all business opportunities identified at this site are pursued. There are, of course, uncertainties going forward. One or more of the identified opportunities may not evolve as originally foreseen. Nonetheless, the annual revenue comes at no cost... and no risk to the Resort Municipality of Whistler."
BC Transit would not release the Commercial Services Business Case this week, but corporate spokesperson Meribeth Burton explained that the $200,000 is potential revenue further down the road. Right now Transit is focused on its one secured $40,000 contract and getting council approval.
"We're looking at innovative ways to generate revenue and to make best possible use of the transit centre," she said. "We expect that we can generate upwards of $200,000 if we also have the site available for bus washing as well as parking for other interested bus and related companies."
There will be public hearings on the bylaw changes before council moves ahead with finalizing the bylaws.
Council gives its blessing for GranFondo beer garden
Weary road bikers and friends and family over the legal drinking age will be able to have a well-deserved beer at Olympic Plaza after the 122-kilometre RBC GranFondo race next month.
Kids and teens, however, will be on the outside, blocked from the fenced-off beer garden without a coloured bracelet to confirm proof of age.
This week council gave its endorsement to a Special Occasion License for GranFondo that will have a maximum 2,500 capacity with service from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Plaza.
Like other festival organizers in Whistler, GranFondo organizers wish the province's liquor laws would allow all their participants to be together and enjoy a beer at the same time. This is the next best thing.
"We feel our event caters to a very family-friendly audience, and the atmosphere that we're trying to create is very much full of camaraderie and celebration, versus drinking, that it would be nice to be able to lift those types of limits," said Lindsay Carswell, GranFondo's director of marketing.
That said, Carswell added that the beer garden is one facet to the overall event.
"We're not concerned about delivering a great experience for people on the day."
It is anticipated there will be roughly 1,000 guests at the event under the age of 19.
The GranFondo last year generated $2.7 million in economic activity for Whistler and $8.2 million for the province.
This year the event will take place on Sept. 8.
Plaza noise report coming to council
Noise issues continue to mar Whistler's second annual summer concert series.
At its first meeting in September municipal staff will deliver a report to council looking at a range of issues surrounding the concert noise from Whistler Olympic Plaza.
"They've been out taking measurements in various locations so we want the results of that monitoring," said the mayor after the meeting. "And then there's been some consideration of changing the location of speakers and things like that. So it's just to give us an update on what we've been hearing."
Council heard again Tuesday night in a letter from Whistler Cay Heights residents Sherry and Alex Klopfer who say any concert is "clearly audible from our deck and bedroom" about one kilometre away.
"Any claim that this noise is acceptable before 10 p.m., or that it's a trade-off for being close to the Village is ridiculous and insulting," they wrote. "We are sure that any legal challenge would be whole-heartedly supported by the hundreds of homeowners impacted.
"These concerts should be moved to the Callaghan Valley, or, at the very least no noise pollution should be permitted beyond the perimeter of the Plaza."
The report is expected at the Sept. 4 meeting.
2011 Energy Report delivers mixed news
The Resort Municipality of Whistler spends one million dollars every year on electricity from its 130 BC Hydro accounts.
That's just part of its $1.7 million energy costs.
And while the good news for the municipality is that energy consumption in the organization as a whole was down six per cent over last year, 2011, however, was the second highest year on record for energy consumption.
Costs are only slated to go up in the coming years — about five per cent annually.
"We've got to continue to target five or six per cent energy reduction or else those (costs) will go up," said Ted Battiston, in his report to council.
The community as a whole, however, is seeing an increasing trend for energy consumption.
"We continue to consume more energy year over year across the whole community," said Battiston, for a total community spend of $78 million.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions at the municipal level are on the decrease, due in no small part to the more than million dollar upgrades at the Meadow Park Sports Centre.
"We're doing well as an organization; most of it is being carried by Meadow Park," he said.
The community as a whole has also reduced its emissions; most of those meaningful reductions coming from the landfill gas capture project, and the change from propane to natural gas in parts of Whistler.
"There's not a whole lot of those left," said Battiston of the big projects with impact.
"The challenge for the rest of the decade is we need to find another 3,000 tonnes per year."
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