With less than seven months until November's municipal election, council is setting the stage to entice more people to run for elected office.
It has adopted a new Family-Friendly Policy that will allow elected officials paid maternity and parental leave for up to six months.
And according to municipal staff's research, it's the first community in Canada to do so.
"I was surprised to learn that there wasn't such a policy in any other city or town across Canada," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
"I'm really pleased and proud that we're considering this policy and we're groundbreaking here."
Previously Whistler's elected officials were not entitled to paid time off for a birth or adoption.
"This lack of time off could possibly deter an interested individual from running for office if they are considering having a child during the term of office," wrote Denise Wood, the municipality's director of human resources in her report to council Tuesday night. "This policy enables individuals to recover from childbirth, bond with, and care for their newborn or adopted child, without fear of negative impact on the status of their position or office."
The policy was developed following a request from Wilhelm-Morden after she attended a conference on women in politics at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) last June.
The policy comes as community members begin to turn their minds to November's election.
Two members of council — Jayson Faulkner and Duane Jackson — have announced they will not seek re-election for a second term.
The remaining five members of council have not announced their intentions as yet.
Police presence to be "highly visible" for May long weekend
There will be zero tolerance for illegal behaviour over the upcoming May long weekend, according to Whistler's top cop, and he'll have the manpower to back that up.
Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair is calling on all available resources to set the tone for the weekend, a tone decidedly unlike last year, which was marred by unsavoury behaviour.
All general duty RCMP officers in Whistler and Pemberton will be required to work over that weekend, barring any special circumstances, and they will be required to take on extended shifts.
Additional officers from Squamish and the Lower Mainland will be beefing up the force.
"Our objectives are to have a highly visibly police presence," said LeClair.
There will be extensive bike patrols in the local parks, foot patrols throughout the village, the Integrated Road Safety Unit on traffic duty, school liaison officers from the Lower Mainland, a police dog and handler and the plainclothes general investigation section too.
Councillor Jayson Faulkner asked members of the May Long Weekend Committee, presenting to council Tuesday, about the pick up for registrants for the GO Fest activities, the festival backed by municipal money to change the culture and tone of the May Long weekend.
The committee expects to see 50 teams in the Great Snow-Earth-Water race; 15 have signed up to date. They expect 500 people to take part in the AlpenGlow Fun Run.
Room-night bookings are trending slightly behind last year but the 120-day outlook is up. And, as always, the weather will play a role in how the room nights finish off, said Bob Andrea, municipal manager of village animation.
Solution proposed for undeveloped Alpine lands
A long complicated land development problem at the top of Alpine Meadows may soon have a solution.
Council is considering discharging a 35-year-old Land Use Contract on a portion of land at the top of Mountain View Drive, replacing it with RS1 zoning consistent with the neighbourhood.
That will allow the landowner to develop a narrow panhandle lot with steep terrain, stretching far above the road, along with to side-by-side lots at street level in one comprehensive development parcel.
Combining the three separate properties into one development plan will allow the owner to prepare an "integrated development concept for these three lots that addresses access issues and developability," stated municipal planning technician Roman Licko in his report to council.
In other words, the development plan would see a reconfiguration of the properties to maximize the lots.
This is just one of four steep and large pandhandle lots at the top of Alpine Meadows.
Licko wrote: "Over the years staff have been approached by various owners (and potential purchasers) regarding development on the panhandle parcels but an acceptable access solution has never been reached and the parcels remain undeveloped."
Craig Ross, of Whistler Alpine Development, spoke to council about the challenges of developing property since purchasing it with partners in 2012, in particular trying to find a resolution with the three other owners of the neighbouring panhandle lots, who also frustrated by tough access to their sites.
"An agreement couldn't be reached with all the property owners," said Ross as he outlined the case for his development.
Once the Land Use Contract on the panhandle property is discharged, it would be replaced with RS1 zoning, consistent with the zoning in that area.
That would allow the developer to build a larger home — 325 square metres (3,500 square feet) plus an auxiliary suite of 83 square metres, bigger than what's allowed under the land use contact at 232 square metres (2,500 square feet).
Council agreed to keep the project moving through the process at municipal hall.
MARIJUANA BYLAW REWORKED, PUBLIC HEARING PLANNED
Whistler is rejigging its marijuana bylaw to ensure the bylaw, and the process for approving it, is accurate.
Council rescinded second reading of the zoning amendment bylaw, given in March, which limits the location and the size for the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes to one Whistler facility.
It then gave first and second readings to a new revised bylaw.
The production and distribution of medical marijuana is still limited to one facility in Function Junction, but the bylaw now states that the facility (three side-by-side units) has a maximum development potential of 900 square metres as permitted by the underlying zoning (9,687 square feet) as opposed to the 560 square metres (6,027 square feet) originally written into the bylaw.
Another reason to rescind the original bylaw was a missed ad in Pique giving notice of the upcoming public hearing; the ads for public hearings must be placed in at least two consecutive issues of a newspaper.
A public hearing will now be scheduled for the new bylaw.
COUNCIL SUPPORTS DRINKING IN THE THEATRE
Concert and movie-goers, wedding guests and other event patrons may soon be able to have a drink in the theatre at Millennium Place.
On Tuesday evening, council endorsed an application from the Whistler Arts Council to extend its licensed area from the ground-floor lobby and the upper floor gallery to the Franz Wilhelmsen Hall theatre.
"Permitting patrons to bring wine or bring into the theatre would create an atmosphere of relaxed enjoyment that would complement the theatre's programming," wrote Chris Hodkinson of the Whistler Arts Council (WAC) in a letter to the municipality. "The request to be able to bring liquor into the theatre has been expressed by numerous event patrons at Millennium Place."
Hodkinson went on the say that WAC's intent is to increase revenue by "capturing sales that are lost due to the current licensing arrangement."
Last year there were 39 events at Millennium Place where the liquor primary license was used; 11 of those were ski and snowboard film presentations and the remainder were Whistler Arts Council performance series, private rentals, receptions and local theatre productions.
This change will not impact the licensed capacity of 247 persons at Millennium Place because if there was a licensed event in the theatre, there could not be another event taking place in the lobby.
If the event includes minors, the theatre will not be licensed.
"It's funny, you can go and watch a baseball game with a drink," said Councillor Andrée Janyk.
The mayor added: "It's always entertaining to talk about B.C. liquor laws."
The plan is to use durable washable plastic glassware or look into disposable options to address noise and safety concerns.
The Liquor License Advisory Council supports the application.
Council's recommendation will now go to the provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Branch for a decision.
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