Artificial turf project to go forward after defeated amendment 

Budget bylaws being prepared

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - IN THE BUDGET The Resort Municipality of Whistler is proposing a 1.9-per-cent property tax increase this year.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • IN THE BUDGET The Resort Municipality of Whistler is proposing a 1.9-per-cent property tax increase this year.

A last-minute amendment to remove the multimillion-dollar artificial turf field project from this year's budget was defeated by a vote of 6 to 1 at the March 21 council meeting.

The amendment was proposed by Coun. Sue Maxwell, who cited a long list of concerns with the project for the second consecutive council meeting.

Maxwell reiterated that community indicators show 100-per-cent satisfaction with access to recreation opportunities, but continue to show poor results in a number of areas like affordability, energy and water use, greenhouse-gas emissions and the availability of long-term rentals, to name just a few.

"I think we need to be taking a look at the needs of the whole community and not just the wants of the few," she said. "I would like us to make sure that we are actually making some progress on some of our identified needs."

The proposed amendment sparked another lengthy discussion at the council meeting, in which each member weighed in on the project.

The discussion touched on many of the same points heard in recent weeks: the current fields are overused, overworked and need to be replaced, an artificial turf is the most cost-effective way of doing so, and spending money on the project doesn't mean things like housing or other community needs will fall by the wayside (the whole discussion will be available at www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov/council/watch-council-meetings).

In the end, Maxwell was the only council member to vote for the amendment.

The project has $160,000 budgeted for location studies this year and another $3,993,000 for construction in 2018 — though construction costs could be closer to the $3-million range depending on the location chosen for the field.

The next step is to identify a location, with the goal of tendering for construction by the end of the year.

The discussion came as part of a broader staff report on the budget guidelines.

Council authorized staff to prepare the 2017-2021 five-year financial plan based on a 1.9-per-cent increase to property value taxes and a one-per-cent increase to sewer parcel taxes. There is no proposed increase to water and solid-waste parcel taxes and fees.

The increase equates to a $23 tax increase per $500,000 of assessed value for residential properties, and $101 for business class properties, as well as a $4 utility-fee increase for both

"Of course, everybody's properties out there change by something greater or less than what the average increase in assessed value was, so the impact for many people is going to be something a little higher or a little lower," said director of finance Ken Roggeman.

"On average this is what will happen, but individual results are going to vary."

The five-year financial plan bylaw will come before council on April 11, with adoption slated for April 25.

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