Though Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden has sat on council for a combined total of over 15 years, she can't recall ever having a council-to-council meeting with the Squamish Nation — which made Tuesday's meeting of the governments that much more notable.
"This is the first time in history that we've held a council-to-council meeting. It's long overdue," Wilhelm-Morden said at the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) regular council meeting on Oct. 20.
"It was very informative, it was productive, it was four hours in length, and I'm looking forward to moving on and moving forward from the groundwork that we achieved today."
There was no set agenda for the meeting, but Wilhelm-Morden said the two councils spent time getting to know more about each other and their backgrounds.
"We went through the 2014 annual report which was packed full of information, and then we talked about what we might want to do in the future (and) we discussed entry into a protocol agreement," Wilhelm-Morden said.
"So for not having a fixed agenda we covered a lot of territory."
At the Oct. 20 meeting, council voted to amend an RMOW bylaw concerning tax exemption for not-for-profits to extend the exemption for the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre to include the 10 years from 2016 to 2025.
"I think this is great," councillor Jack Crompton said. "It was a very positive meeting and it's exciting to be moving forward on something like this. I think the timing is also great — with the cultural connector and with the Audain museum arriving soon — to be moving together collaboratively, and I think this is a great first step."
Public hearing held for shipping container ban
According to Ken Achenbach, the acronym "RMOW" could refer to more than just the administration of Whistler.
"It could also stand for the two tiers of government: Rich Members of Whistler and Regular Members of Whistler," Achenbach told council and staff at a public hearing on Oct. 20 concerning the banning of shipping containers in residential neighbourhoods.
"If you're a rich member of Whistler and break the law by using architects, designers and lawyers to hide your illegal space... you're all good," Achenbach said. "If you're a regular member of Whistler and you follow the law, and install what you're told is not an illegal storage space in your yard and hide it with a hedge, heaven help you, we will come down upon you with furious anger and ban them."
When it comes down to it, the discussion around shipping containers is really about space — something Achenbach said has been an issue since he moved here in the '80s.
Achenbach was one of four people to speak against banning shipping containers. He said he first checked with the RMOW about the issue 13 years ago.
"I was told nothing one way or another about not putting it in," he said. "If it was illegal they would have or should have said so."
Achenbach asked that council reconsider banning the containers.
"Sure, bring in some codes," he said, referring to council's concerns around looks and safety. "But banning containers completely while some towns and cities all over the world are starting to open up to them for their small ecological footprint and their sustainability is ridiculous."
Back in May, council voted five to two to ban the use of shipping containers in residential neighbourhoods.
A third reading of the bylaw was on the October 20 council agenda, but council must now review the feedback from the public hearing before making its final decision.
Wayfinding signage contract awarded
A major piece of the RMOW's Master Wayfinding Strategy is getting closer to being put in place.
At the Oct. 20 meeting, council gave its authorization for staff to execute a contract in the amount of $1,094,168 with Architectural Graphics Incorporated for the fabrication and installation of wayfinding signage.
Work involved with the contract includes a complete update of pole-mounted signage in and around the village, new and refurbished maps and kiosks, parking lot entry and wayfinding monuments.
Fabrication will take place from November to February, with installation expected to take place in March and April of next year.
The purpose of the Wayfinding Strategy — first finalized and published back in February — is to enhance the Whistler visitor experience.
Councillor John Grills said it was a timely discussion to have, with council having just returned from its fact-finding trip to Colorado.
"This group walked around numerous resort communities last week, and to have a seamless design and information telling you where you are, where you're going — and it's the same all throughout the community... it would be really helpful," Grills said.
Rec and leisure masterplan unveiled
After more than two-and-a-half years in development, the RMOW's Recreation and Leisure Master Plan is ready for implementation.
The plan — unveiled at the Oct. 20 meeting of council — is meant to provide direction in regards to managing Whistler's world-class recreation amenities.
"I think that this document is long overdue. The previous plan is almost 20 years old," Wilhelm-Morden said.
"I'm confident that it has set out a plan for us that will guide us for the next several years."
The plan was unveiled in two documents — one with the meat of the report and one containing its recommendations.
While she acknowledged the plan has lots of good elements, Councillor Sue Maxwell wanted to ensure the community doesn't get the wrong idea about the costs involved.
"I'm a little bit worried... that to some degree we may be creating a wish list that we can't put forward," she said.
"I recognize that it says in there that this is not a guarantee that we will pursue all of these things, but I do wonder if we're not creating some expectations among the community."
Wilhelm-Morden said she heard Maxwell's concerns, but trusted staff and council to keep costs down.
"I'm confident that we have enough in the way of staff oversight, council oversight... that we will be able to make decisions that are fiscally responsible," she said.
The full plan can be found at www.whistler.ca/business/current-projects/rec-master-plan.
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