Budget preps wrapping up 

Community forum set for Feb. 28

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - IN THE BUDGET A resident-restricted housing project in Cheakamus Crossing will be one item related to housing in the upcoming 2017 budget.
  • File photo by Braden Dupuis
  • IN THE BUDGET A resident-restricted housing project in Cheakamus Crossing will be one item related to housing in the upcoming 2017 budget.

If you haven't yet had your say in the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) annual Community Life Survey, time is about to run out.

The web version of the survey closes Friday, Feb. 17, and can be found at www.whistler.ca/stay-connected/surveys.

So far 322 people have filled out the online survey, with another 200 seasonal residents set to be surveyed in-person before Feb. 17.

"The results help us to monitor trends, they help us see just what the performance of the municipality is, and most importantly the results help guide decision making," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

This year's survey results won't be ready in time to be used in preparing the forthcoming municipal budget — which will on display at a community meeting at the Maury Young Arts Centre on Tuesday, Feb. 28 from 5 to 7 p.m. — but the RMOW is well aware of the two main issues facing the community today: housing and traffic.

The budget will feature items born from both the Transportation Advisory Group and the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing, as well as some big-ticket items that were initiated in the 2016 budget.

"There will be some items of interest I'm sure," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"The artificial turf field is being budgeted for in this budget, that's probably the biggest project that comes to mind, (and) the gateway loop (enhancement project) is back in again because it got stalled out this last year, so there are some changes."

As for the specifics, residents will have to wait until the proposed project budget is posted online to www.whistler.ca/budget to dig in for themselves.

"It will probably be the beginning of next week that people will be able to find it," the mayor said, noting that council still has one more budget workshop meeting planned for Feb. 16.

And as for tax increases?

"If there is a tax increase at all, it will be modest," Wilhelm-Morden said.

One initiative the RMOW hopes will bolster its budget for housing is an increase to the Employee Housing Service Charge (EHSC) bylaw, which requires new residential developments (that are subject to a rental pool covenant) as well as commercial and industrial developments to contribute to employee housing.

The charge is based on the number of employees expected to be generated by these developments. At its Feb. 7 meeting, council directed staff to bring forward an amendment to the EHSC bylaw that would raise the charge from $5,908 per employee to $10,177.

At least one developer reached by Pique felt the increase was unfair, calling it an indirect tax on Whistler businesses.

"I don't agree with that. Certainly there are development cost charges for recreation, transportation, water and sewer, and all of those cost charges are used for essential infrastructure," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"They've been in place for decades, and it was around 1990 that the employee works and service charge bylaw came into being, because we recognized early on that employee housing was as critical an infrastructure to this municipality as water and sewer."

Though the community itself is close to build-out, the RMOW has heard about a handful of projects in the planning stages that will be subject to the increased charge.

"We don't have applications in at municipal hall," Wilhelm-Morden said of those projects. "... We are very close to the cap."

The highest-profile development in the works is likely Whistler Blackcomb's (WB) Renaissance project.

"WB has been the largest developer of resident-restricted and employee housing over the last three decades and we will continue to do our part for both our business and the community," said WB chief operating officer Dave Brownlie in an emailed statement.

Residents can email comments, questions or feedback about the budget to budget@whistler.ca, or contact members of council directly www.whistler.ca/stay-connected/contact.


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