WAG’s new site raises concern at council table 

Some members of council are concerned about the proposed location of the new animal shelter at the Public Works Yard.

Both Councillors Kristi Wells and Ken Melamed expressed concerns at Monday’s council meeting about WAG’s new home, nestled on the southeast corner of the works yard between the bottle depot and Nesters Road.

"This site was chosen because we couldn’t find anything else and we needed to do something soon," admits Melamed.

But he said council might have regrets once they see the shelter built in that space because it is too small and too close to the highway.

Wells reiterated this point and said council might be limiting its options by putting the shelter in such a tight spot, particularly if Carney’s is looking to expand its recycling services in the future for things like a composting site in Whistler.

"I’m getting cold feet," said Wells.

Council directed staff last October to move ahead with plans for WAG’s new home at the Public Works Yard.

Since then a stakeholder group has worked together to develop plans for a 2,215 square feet structure with two storeys.

The shelter will include kennels, a cattery, an office and associated spaces.

It is currently budgeted just under $450,000.

Despite the small size, it will be a vast improvement to WAG’s current home.

"It’s going to be significantly better than where we are now," said Carol Coffey, director of the animal shelter.

"Although we’d all love to have big huge outdoor dog runs and exercise facilities ... it’s Whistler and we have to be realistic about it. There’s just no way that anyone can afford the space for that."

Coffey explained that the current facilities present challenges for both the staff and the animals.

Despite stuffing towels into the holes in the walls, they could not keep the cattery warm this winter and eventually they had to evacuate the cats.

In addition the shelter isn’t properly ventilated and does not have any isolation facilities for animals that get sick.

"Sick animals are in with healthy animals so it’s not a very good situation in terms of disease transmission," said Coffey.

On top of that there are no washrooms for the staff.

Coffey has been looking forward to a new shelter for the animals, even if it isn’t a dream shelter, for some time now.

From the outset council understood the works yard would be a challenging site but it was chosen in part because of its relatively central location that would be easy to access for visitors, volunteers and potential adopting families alike.

The yard is also far away from any residential developments so the noise from the animals would not disturb any neighbours.

Melamed asked Parks Planner Kevin McFarland to investigate the possibility of building the shelter at the proposed site but moving it at a later date to a better location.

Wells proposed an idea where WAG could operate temporarily from the library/museum trailers at the Spruce Grove Park until council found a better location.

Deputy Administrator Bill Barratt explained that during the process of finding the new WAG site staff looked at a variety of options, including some crown land sites, before settling on the municipally-owned Public Works Yard.

"(We) took some time to come up with the site we have and we’re well along in that process," said Barratt.

The project will be presented in detail at the next council meeting on Monday, June 7 when it comes forward for a development permit.


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