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On open doors, RMOW lacks legal authority

Council briefs: Q3 financials presented
DOORS WIDE OPEN While many Whistlerites would like to see local businesses close their doors in winter, the Resort Municipality of Whistler says it lacks the legal authority to mandate them to do so. File photo

While Whistler's mayor and council received yet another letter asking them to take action on open doors along the Village Stroll, the matter isn't as straightforward as a simple bylaw amendment.

"The RMOW (Resort Municipality of Whistler) looked into our ability to regulate the closing of retail store doors, and staff have confirmed with our legal counsel that it is beyond the authority of a local government to regulate the position of a retail-store door," said Mayor Jack Crompton at the Jan. 8 council meeting.

But Councillor Arthur De Jong, who will oversee the local environment portfolio for the next four years, said he remains committed to the cause.

"A number of residents have spoken to me about this challenge, and I certainly respect the legal realities of it, but given the climate crisis that we're in, to not be able to do the simplest of enactments to shut doors, I can certainly understand why (that would be) ... unaccepted by a lot of our environmental community," De Jong said.

"I'll certainly work at ways to continue to see how we may be able to achieve the objective of having the doors shut."

Coun. Ralph Forsyth related the issue to a story about over-packaging in Germany—when frustrated citizens began ripping off excess packaging and leaving it behind, store owners were forced to raise the issue with their suppliers.

"They pushed it up the chain, and now they don't have the over-packaging problem they did. So the moral of that tale is that norms are always more powerful than laws," Forsyth said.

"If people are truly outraged by open doors then they'll stop going to those stores and they'll encourage their friends not to go to those stores, and they push it up the chain."

And if the municipality wants to encourage businesses, it can reach out to the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, Forsyth added.

"We can certainly talk to them and see if they can prod their members to close their doors."


Also at the Jan. 8 meeting, new director of finance Carlee Price was on hand to present the municipality's Q3 financials for 2018.

Nine months into the fiscal year, overall operating revenues were at 92 per cent and expenditures 73 per cent of their annual budgeted amounts (compared to 98 and 73 per cent last year, respectively).

"This is as expected; we collect most of our tax revenues in the summer, as we did last year, and some of the fees that we collected last year were above expectations," Price said.

Day lot parking revenues, for example, were $407,300 higher than the prior year (thanks to the introduction of pay parking in lots 4 and 5), and parking enforcement revenues were also up $176,800 year over year.

Meadow Park Sports Centre revenues were down slightly thanks in part to some excellent weather in September, Price said.

"So that was a bit of a negative, but not enough to offset all the other good news," she said.

Investment income to Sept. 30 (unaudited) was $1,259,632—about 85 per cent of the total budgeted for the year.

The Q3 financial report also includes an update on ongoing municipal projects, and how much of each budget has been spent to date.

Find the full list in the Jan. 8 council package starting on page 36: