Are Whistler taxpayers willing to see their taxes increase in order to fund a multi-million dollar ice arena in the village?
That was the question posed by Acting Mayor Nick Davies at a Tourism Whistler meeting Wednesday afternoon.
His question drew quick response from some of the roughly 100 community members at the meeting, which focused on the resorts ailing economy.
"Its an impossible question to answer," answered Mike Wintemute, general manager of Re/Max Sea to Sky Real Estate. "I dont have enough information to give you that answer."
Tourism Whistlers meeting was not called to discuss the Paralympic arena, rather to talk about ongoing summer and winter marketing and some new initiatives. And yet, the discussion veered toward the proposed village arena, and the fact that Whistler may choose not to build it at all, highlighting a growing concern among community members about the state of business in the resort and what the community is doing to deal with it.
To date, there are scant details available about the Paralympic arena.
Whistler council is looking at all its options, one of which includes asking Squamish to build the facility and host the sledge hockey events during the Paralympic Games.
Originally the arena was slated to go on Lot 1/Lot 9 in the village, along with a $20 million cheque from the Vancouver Organizing Committee to build it.
With construction costs on the rise throughout the province the cost to build the arena may have doubled.
"Theres only one place that money can come from and thats taxes," said Davies to the audience.
As such, he asked, would a homeowner be willing to see their taxes increase from $4,000 to $4,500 or a business owner willing to see their taxes jump from $10,000 to $12,000.
Business owner Dave Davenports reply was that if the arena drove more business to the resort and as a result, increased his sales more than the increase to his tax bill, then he would be willing to pay more in taxes.
Tourism Whistler Board Chair Rick Clare added his two cents too.
"Raise my taxes," he stated simply. "Id rather go down in flames than wish Id lit a fire."
The discussion on the 5,000-seat arena was put to rest by Councillor Gord McKeever, who said council still cannot talk about the details of the deal. A business analysis, along with all the other details of the deal, will be available, he said, in the days leading up to the Aug. 15 council meeting. Council will then hold an open house before making their final decision on the arena at their Sept. 6 meeting.
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