Budget bylaws being prepared 

Council briefs: Infill housing on pause; Alpine Water Main contract awarded

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE CRANE/TOURISM WHISTLER - budget bump The Resort Municipality of Whistler is moving forward with its budget bylaws, which include some modest tax increases.
  • photo by Mike crane/tourism whistler
  • budget bump The Resort Municipality of Whistler is moving forward with its budget bylaws, which include some modest tax increases.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is moving forward with its 2016-2020 five-year financial plan bylaw.

At its March 15 meeting, council directed staff to prepare the bylaw based on a 1.5-per-cent increase to property taxes, a 1.3-per-cent increase to water parcel taxes and user fees and a 1.2-per-cent increase to sewer parcel taxes and fees.

For residential users, the increases equate to an $18 increase per $500,000 of assessed value (based on 2016 property values) and a $10 bump to utility costs.

For businesses, it's a $78 increase in taxes and $10 for utilities.

"I think the tax increase we're proposing is modest," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in a phone call ahead of the meeting.

"It's roughly equivalent to the cost of living increases, and it's certainly less than what Squamish, our neighbour to the south, is contemplating, and less than most of the increases that the lower mainland municipalities are contemplating."

Considering budget stressors like the tanking Canadian dollar and rising hydro and other expenses, the mayor said she's pleased to be able to keep the increase at roughly the cost of living.

"We're able to continue to provide the same, if not increased, levels of service, so I'm very pleased with that," she said.

INFILL HOUSING PILOT PROJECT PUT ON HOLD

Also at its March 15 meeting, the RMOW placed a moratorium on its infill housing pilot project in Alpine Meadows subject to further review from staff.

"The world has changed since 2002 (when the infill housing idea was first floated) with respect to resident housing, and it seems to me that this infill housing pilot project has some significant issues attached to it," Wilhelm-Morden said at the meeting.

The idea behind infill housing is to allow large lots to accommodate more suites, either by splitting the property, allowing multiple suites on the land or allowing duplexes.

It was introduced as a means of increasing employee housing at no cost to the municipality.

But infill housing projects have the potential to change the face of a neighbourhood, Wilhelm-Morden said in a phone call prior to council, and the concept may be outdated with a new WHA building set to be built in Cheakamus Crossing and a significant land bank for affordable housing in the same area.

"That neighbourhood was built for that purpose, so people buying in there know what they're getting and know what the future holds," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"On the other hand, we've had affordable housing projects that have integrated extremely well into already existing neighbourhoods, like 19 Mile Creek for example, so I would like to hear the different viewpoints that people may express on this."

The moratorium motion was added to the council package by Wilhelm-Morden after a lengthy discussion about an infill application on Drifter Way in Alpine — just the second since the pilot project was introduced.

The application proposed splitting the lot in two, relocating one house and adding another as WHA stock.

It required a Development Variance Permit (DVP), which is what brought it before council.

Notice of the DVP drew a wide range of responses from the public both for and against, but in the end council voted 5 to 1 to deny the application.

Coun. Sue Maxwell voted in favour, while Coun. John Grills declared a conflict of interest as he lives near the lot in question.

Check back with Pique next week for more on this story.

ALPINE WATER MAIN CONTRACT AWARDED

The second phase of the Alpine Water Main Replacement Project is set to get underway this spring.

At its March 15 meeting, council awarded a contract in the amount of $3,867,780 to Ponte Bros contracting, which also worked on the project in 2015.

"There were significant delays in the 2015 work," said municipal planner Michael Day in a presentation to council.

"Those delays were not attributable to anything that Ponte did. Essentially they were installing pipe and installing it exactly as it was to be installed according to the manufacturer, but there were pipe-quality issues that resulted in approximately a two-month delay in the project."

All of the issues with the project to this point have been documented, Day said.

"We have a record of all the complaints that came in, and one result of that is we did a review of the project in November 2015, developed a lessons-learned document, and then incorporated the lessons learned into the 2016 tender documents," he said.

The municipality received four bids for the project, of which Ponte's was the lowest by about $200,000, Day said.

This year the contractor will be responsible for answering directly to water complaints from residents, "so if homeowners find some discoloured water or something like that, the contractor is formally tasked with investigating that and attempting to resolve it," Day said.

The total proposed budget for the project in 2016 is $5.66 million, including $1.1 million carried over from unfinished work in 2015.

This year's work will start on Rainbow Drive and Matterhorn Drive and is expected to run from April to October.

The RMOW will once again provide updates through its website and Facebook page.

SHIPPING CONTAINERS BYLAW AMENDED

During the public hearing process around banning shipping containers in residential neighbourhoods last December, council heard from a number of people who asked for limited electrical utilities to be allowed in the containers.

At its March 15 meeting, council gave first two readings to a bylaw amendment that will allow just that.

Servicing to shipping containers such as electrical and plumbing has been prohibited since 2000.

"People expressed a desire for heat and light to the containers to access them and for some goods not to freeze if they were stored there for the winter," said policy planner Kevin Creery in a presentation to council.

"The proposed changes are to have a detachable electrical supply to a maximum of 30 amps."

The limit to amperage will keep the shipping containers from being used as workshops or residences, Creery said.

While no longer allowed in residential neighbourhoods, shipping containers are still permitted in commercial and industrial areas, or for limited temporary use for purposes like construction or moving.

A public hearing will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

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