Cheakamus Crossing homeowners reject municipality's DES deal 

Current terms of $870K offer to cover repair costs not 'workable,' says committee head

click to flip through (2) PHOTO FROM WHISTLER.CA - DES deal Cheakamus Crossing homeowners have rejected an $870,000 offer from the RMOW to hep cover repair costs associated with the neighbourhood's District Energy System, pictured, saying restrictions on the deal make it virtually impossible to access the funds.
  • Photo from whistler.ca
  • DES deal Cheakamus Crossing homeowners have rejected an $870,000 offer from the RMOW to hep cover repair costs associated with the neighbourhood's District Energy System, pictured, saying restrictions on the deal make it virtually impossible to access the funds.
 

Cheakamus Crossing homeowners have rejected an offer proposed by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) to help cover costs associated with the neighbourhood's controversial heating system.

In September, Whistler's outgoing mayor and council approved an $870,000 loan to municipal subsidiary and developer of the former Athletes' Village, the Whistler 2020 Development Corporation, to help cover repair and maintenance costs associated with the District Energy System (DES).

Touted by officials in the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics as an energy-efficient and less-costly alternative to traditional heating, the DES has resulted in a litany of technical issues and expensive repair bills for some owners.

"While our clients appreciate the offer, it does not adequately address their concerns and contains terms that are simply unworkable in the circumstances, as individual owners require varying levels of redress," wrote Nav Parhar, lawyer for Infinity Law, which has been retained by the 174 homeowners in Cheakamus Crossing.

The current offer requires the funds to be distributed to the neighbourhood's five strata corporations, proportional to the number of units in each strata. Under the terms of the deal, the respective strata councils would be responsible for determining how those funds are divvied up, which could prove challenging given the wide range of repair costs homeowners have incurred.

"This issue comes from two sides," said Tony Routley, neighbourhood appointee to the volunteer DES committee. "It comes from people who've had problems (with their systems), but it also comes from people who have experienced very few problems. Because they go, 'Well, why am I signing this? I don't care. I haven't really had any problems.' We're caught between both ends of the spectrum on that."

Adding to the complications is the requirement that each strata member agree to the deal in order for that respective strata corporation to access the funds. "The restrictions on the offer make it virtually impossible to get the money," Routley said.

Another sticking point for Routley is the confusion around what costs would be eligible for coverage under the proposed offer. When the deal was announced late last summer, then-Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said that, while the RMOW won't "dictate the (funding) criteria," the municipality's preference would be that funds go towards future repair and maintenance costs, cold comfort for the owners who have already incurred costly bills despite two phases of repair work commissioned by the RMOW that was supposed to address significant technical issues.

"There's a core group that is still dealing with major issues," Routley said. "But there are also a lot of people who have switched their systems from being fully on the DES to running all electric ... They're paying more for electric and it's not what they bought in the first place."

Any deal signed would also relieve the RMOW of any future liability associated with the DES, a measure that Routley said homeowners are amenable to—just not under the current iteration of the deal.

"I don't think people mind signing a waiver, but it has to be under workable terms," he said.

Homeowners have instructed Infinity Law to bring the issue to litigation if it isn't resolved by the end of May 2019.

In a statement provided to Pique, the RMOW said it continues to work with strata managers to "define guidelines for the expenditure" of the earmarked funds. "Our hope is to resolve this through continued dialogue," the statement concluded.

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