Council has signaled it will be moving ahead with the Mons Road industrial rezoning though it has yet to officially adopt the bylaws.
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden thanked developer Steve Bayly, who was sitting in the audience at Tuesday's council meeting, for coming back to the table to negotiate after council sent his project back to staff more than a month ago.
She specifically thanked him for not involving his lawyers, though he threatened to do so following delays last month.
"We took heat for it but I think it was the right thing to do," said the mayor of council's delay in an effort to find more information.
"Hopefully, we'll have a better development as a result."
Municipal planner Melissa Laidlaw updated council on the negotiations over the past month. Among other things Bayly, and his business partner Nigel Woods, agreed to a maximum build out of 200,000 square feet on the site — a far cry from the potential last month of half a million square feet that council was told was the maximum when it was asked to approve the final bylaws at the August 21 meeting.
Staff also outlined the uses in the new CTI1 zone. The allowable uses in the zone are "very limited" in comparison to the zones in Function Junction, said Laidlaw.
Among the uses are: indoor and outdoor recreation, fuel service station, recycling depot for household goods, vehicle impound, taxi dispatch and storage yard and landscaping services.
Though he supported the rezoning and applauded the applicants for coming back to the table, Councillor Jayson Faulkner still expressed some reservations about the impact of the project on Function Junction.
"I still think there's going to be some competitive pressure on Function Junction," he said, referring specifically to the indoor recreation uses.
While that's unfortunate, he said, to some extent council was running out of options.
It was the work of previous councils who passed first three bylaws and the public hearing of this rezoning, moving it forward to this stage.
Meanwhile, in an about-face of last week's letter critical of council's delay in handling the Mons rezoning, the local chapter of the Canadian Home Builders' Association has retracted its initial letter to council.
CHBA president Eric Prall, who wrote the first letter, sent a second letter this week to Mike Furey, chief administrative officer at the municipality, retracting the CHBA's letter dated Sept. 4.
"Unfortunately the letter was not thoroughly vetted nor edited internally and does not represent the opinion of the CHBA Sea to Sky," Prall wrote.
"We place much importance on our productive and collaborative relationship with the Resort Municipality of Whistler. We are very pleased by the level of professionalism and understanding demonstrated by the council and mayor along with the staff in fostering a collaborative and stable confidence-filled environment for the building and development community.
"We look forward to continuing our productive relationship with the RMOW to benefit the community at large."
Transit facility passes third reading
Despite concerns raised by a transit committee member at the public hearing, council is moving ahead with rezoning for commercial operations at the transit facility.
Council thanked Bill Murray for his concerns about the economic feasibility of the commercial venture, which will allow a private operator to rent space for parking at the transit facility, among other things.
"It may not be perfect," admitted Faulkner of the business plan.
"It doesn't have massive upside but it's certainly better than the status quo."
The mayor also pointed out that the business plan, which has not been made public, was done by BC Transit for the minister of transportation to show why he should allow commercial operations at the site — something that has never been done before at a transit site.
"It's perhaps not as a robust a business plan as you would normally expect," explained the mayor.
Councillor Jack Crompton, who is the council representative on the transit committee, also supported the rezoning but cautioned council that it would need to watch and monitor how it develops.
First Nations meeting a 'good exchange' on OCP concerns
The mayor and municipal administrator met with First Nations recently in an effort to find some common ground on the sticking points in the Official Community Plan (OCP) update.
The lunch meeting included representatives from Squamish and Lil'wat Nations as well as staff from the nations and the municipality.
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden called it a "good exchange of information."
"We've heard their concerns in detail," she said. "The meeting was about two hours long."
Administrator Mike Furey echoed the work done at the meeting.
"We're feeling like we've achieved a good understanding of what their concerns are," he said.
The OCP update is also on Whistler's agenda when its representatives attend the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) annual meeting next week.
The mayor said she would be updating the province on the status of the OCP update which council is still hoping to pass into law by the end of the year.
Also on the UBCM agenda for the Whistler representatives is talking to the province about the interest in keeping rural resource roads open, the Alta Lake Road sewer hook up, liquor licensing issues and meeting with the Resort Collaborative on provincial RMI funding.
In addition to the mayor and Furey, councillors Jack Crompton and John Grills will also attend.
Annual stats out for workforce
The Whistler Housing Authority is predicting another small jump in Whistler's full-time workforce for the coming winter season.
From its high of 14,200 full-time equivalent employees in 2006/07, to its low of 11,800 in 2010/11, Whistler counted around 12,000 full-time employees last winter.
That is expected to grow marginally this season to 12,100, an increase of 0.5 per cent over last year.
In the last decade, Whistler has been housing more and more of its workforce in town, from a low of 73 per cent in 2002/03 to last year's high of 82 per cent.
"This is one of our favourite stats that we like to look at," said WHA general manager Marla Zucht, who presented the WHA's annual Employer Housing Needs Assessment report at the Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday.
The WHA board considered only doing the report every second year now that housing isn't the crisis issue it once was a decade ago.
The board, however, ultimately agreed it was important to keep up the survey on an annual basis for the time being as a way to gauge trends and respond to them.
"Our ability to respond in either direction, we need lead time," said Councillor Roger McCarthy.
The report costs $10,000 per year.
LED light poles installed on new Valley Trail
The section of Valley Trail between Spring Creek and Cheakamus Crossing will soon have lights after dark, following the installation of new standards last week — the final stage of a project that was started two years ago then delayed by fire hazard ratings during the construction windows.
The asphalt was laid last spring at a cost of $722,000, and the light poles, budgeted at $200,000, will complete the section.
According to the municipality, the light poles are unique in Whistler as they use LED lights rather than bulbs.
The lighting optics are better and are 60 per cent more energy efficient that other lights. They also cost less to purchase, and are available from the same manufacturer as other Valley Trail light standards around the resort.
The municipality tested the lights at other locations before making the purchase.
Still unknown is whether the municipality will be ploughing that section of Valley Trail this winter. The budget for ploughing that section of trails was cut before the 2011-2012 winter as part of a municipal service review that identified more than $1.1 million in savings to help balance the budget.
Education task force named
Council has named the members of the recently established task force on learning and education.
They are David Dale Johnson, Terry Deutscher, George Stuart, Bevin Heath Ansley, Shannon Byrne Susko and Allen Puckett.
The task force has been set up to investigate economic development opportunities for Whistler within the field of learning and education, which are considered to have significant economic growth potential, while providing other community benefits. A variety of proposals and initiatives are currently seeking the support of the municipality.
The task force, which includes the mayor, a member of council and the CAO, will play an instrumental role in the planning process.
The process is to be completed within the seven-month period between September 2012 and March 2013, with the task force meeting on a regular basis during this period.
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