RMOW council, staff hold annual retreat 

At mid-way point of a four-year term, council talks priorities

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD/COURTESY RESORT MUNICIPALITY OF WHISTLER - halfway point Whistler's mayor and council, from left: Steve Anderson, Jack Crompton, Jen Ford, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, John Grills, Andree Janyk and Sue Maxwell.
  • photo by david buzzard/courtesy resort municipality of whistler
  • halfway point Whistler's mayor and council, from left: Steve Anderson, Jack Crompton, Jen Ford, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, John Grills, Andree Janyk and Sue Maxwell.

While Whistlerites young and old were celebrating Halloween last week, mayor, council and staff were attending their annual council retreat.

"It wasn't scary," joked Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, in a phone call afterwards.

"Nobody was in costume, and it went quite smoothly."

The full-day session at the Delta Whistler Village Suites touched on past accomplishments, important milestones and the all-important budget preparation.

"We (also) talked about some of the projects that weren't completed this year that will be carried over into next year (like the Gateway Loop Improvement Project), and by the end of the day we had confirmed what our priorities were going into the next year, and staff will work with that to work that into the corporate plan," Wilhelm-Morden said.

Council's top priority for the next year will be a simple one: delivering the basic, core services that Whistlerites expect.

"The roads, the sewers, the water, all of that stuff, and we want to do it at a standard of excellence, but also in a fiscally prudent way, so that's our top priority," the mayor said.

There will also be an added focus on mitigating "unintended consequences" of economic growth, she said.

"Along with the huge economic activity that's been generated have come pressures on transportation, pressures on housing and pressures on affordability," Wilhem-Morden said.

"I am absolutely confident that these are problems that we can go a long way to resolving over the course of the next two years, and so that's what we're going to be focusing on."

Coun. John Grills was first elected to council in 2011 — a very different time for Whistler.

"It certainly is interesting where we've come in the last four or five years," he said.

"If you saw (consequences of massive growth) as a discussion topic on the 2012 February retreat you would have been like, 'oh yeah, sure.'"

With two years left in a four-year term, Grills said he sees this year as a "roll-up-your-sleeves-and-work year."

"Not that we've taken time off in the last year, (but) I don't see the announcement of any new big plans or anything like that, because a lot of them are in place now," he said.

With municipal building and planning departments busier than ever, "I think we... want to maybe help people get their desks cleaned up a little bit, and not just add to the pile," he added.

Stepping up FireSmarting around the corridor and his seat on the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing will also take priority in the next year.

"(The task force) is going to be my top agenda item, or one of the top ones, for next year, and we'll see what assistance we can give the Whistler Housing Authority, and what we can learn from the community and potentially other communities," Grills said.

For first-term councillor Sue Maxwell, the priority in the next two years will be focusing on things like the environment and affordability.

"The Climate Action Plan is a huge step forward, to get that updated, but we're definitely not doing well on water use, on the amount of waste generated... and affordability," Maxwell said.

"I'd like to see us work together with community partners that are interested in moving things forward."

Every level of government has a role to play in addressing climate change, as well as the private sector and community at large, "so I think harnessing that, by working together in partnerships, that we can do more than if we just kind of worked in our own little silos," she said.

There's much work to be done on various fronts, and the RMOW will be counting on feedback and engagement from the public to guide its decisions, Maxwell said.

"I'm just hoping that the people who came out to the community forum in the summer will come out to future ones. The Community Life Survey is another good way to engage, (and) we've started to see some people come out and ask questions at the council meetings," she said.

"So I think it's just good for people to know that it's not a matter of just electing people and then not engaging for four years. It's important for us on council to be able to hear what is important to people."

For Coun. Jen Ford, also halfway through her first term, the main priorities for the next two years are clear: daycare and housing.

"That's my hope, is to deliver some real housing solutions," she said.

"I'm not in a position to say, 'Yes we have the answer, and here it is'... It's not that easy. But I think that the community is primed to find the answer, more so than we were two years ago when a large part of the population was saying 'Yeah, it's always this bad.'

"When you get to the breaking point, that's when the solutions become mandatory and apparent."

As for daycare, a Union of BC Municipalities resolution (first presented by Ford) pushing for the creation of new daycare spaces was supported, and the provincial NDP has made it part of its platform.

"I was really inspired by how much momentum there was in the whole province to push the provincial government, especially in an election year, to recognize that there is the need for supporting daycare," Ford said, adding that the RMOW will be re-convening a working group on daycare in the coming weeks to take a closer look at the issue locally.

Pique reached out to all councillors for this story, but not all responded before deadline.

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