Community Life Survey shows slipping satisfaction 

Council briefs: Paving contract awarded; Transportation plan endorsed

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - Tough talk Alpine Paving will once again pave Whistler's roads this year, while talks are ongoing with owner Frank Silveri to find a new location for the Whistler Aggregates asphalt plan in Cheakamus Crossing.
  • File Photo
  • Tough talk Alpine Paving will once again pave Whistler's roads this year, while talks are ongoing with owner Frank Silveri to find a new location for the Whistler Aggregates asphalt plan in Cheakamus Crossing.

While Whistler has benefited from some favourable external trends in recent years, helping drive record visitation numbers (now 3 million annually) and big tourism export dollars (more than $880 million), some key internal indicators are starting to show signs of slipping.

The 2017 Corporate Plan/Annual Report and the 2017 Community Life Survey (CLS) — both presented to council at its June 6 meeting — shed some light on both sides of the equation.

"Results are generally positive but... there are a few places where I think there are trends that are going in the wrong way and there is things that we should be paying attention to as a community," said director of corporate, economic and environmental services Ted Battiston in a presentation to council.

Battiston highlighted issues like affordability, housing, transportation and parking, greenhouse gas emissions, water use and the amount of waste generated as some of the areas where the municipality could be doing better.

Many results in the 2017 CLS showed significant drops from the responses in 2015, though Battiston noted many of the highest results the municipality has ever seen were in 2015.

"The 2017 results in some cases are showing moderation from that high watermark," he said.

Permanent residents also seem to be showing less faith in their elected officials — just 59 per cent of respondents said they believe decisions are being made in the best interests of the community all or most of the time, compared to 78 per cent in 2015.

In general, CLS respondents remain satisfied with access to recreation opportunities, health and wellness services and selection of arts, culture and heritage opportunities, but just 61 per cent of permanent residents said they are "very satisfied" with Whistler as a place to live and spend time — down from 77 per cent in 2015 and the lowest since 2010.

Both the corporate plan and CLS were posted online just prior to the June 6 council meeting, though the CLS was not included in the council agenda — check back with Pique in the coming weeks for in-depth looks at both.

The corporate plan can be found at www.whistler.ca/municipal-government/strategies-and-plans/corporate-plan, while the CLS results are at www.whistler.ca/stay-connected/surveys.

PAVING CONTRACT AWARDED

While the decision to award Alpine Paving this year's paving contract was delayed two weeks, the contract in the amount of $2.9 million was officially awarded to the company at the June 6 meeting.

Council opted to pay $145,000 extra to bring the asphalt from Squamish rather than have it made in Whistler.

Both Alpine Paving and the Whistler Aggregates plant in Cheakamus are owned by Frank Silveri. The RMOW officially opposed the Cheakamus plant's tenure renewal in March.

Though Alpine Paving was the only company to bid on the work, council delayed awarding the contract at its last meeting to allow for discussions with Silveri.

Through those discussions, it was determined that setting up a temporary plant for the work was not feasible, and the asphalt would need to be sourced from either Whistler or Squamish.

"We did manage to agree that the municipality would work with Alpine Paving to find a new location for their Cheakamus Crossing plant," said general manager of infrastructure James Hallisey.

"We have done that exercise in the past unsuccessfully, but there may be some new options that are out there now and it's an exercise that is worthwhile to undertake and look and see what the possibilities are. The owner of Alpine Paving was definitely open to possibilities if there is a viable solution for him."

But with the provincial government currently in post-election flux, the process may be a slow one, Hallisey warned.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said it was worthwhile to have the discussion with Silveri.

"Hopefully we'll come up with the resolution that, I think it's fair to say, everybody is looking for," she said.

"So it's once again costing us a bit of a premium to not bring the asphalt out of Cheakamus Crossing, but we'll move forward with carrying on with the discussion and hopefully get a good result."

Major paving work to be done this year includes the Alpine Meadows neighbourhood, Lorimer Road, the Gondola Transit Exchange, portions of Blackcomb Way and a small area of Lot 5.

Some sections of the Valley Trail — near the Whistler Golf Club, the Skateboard Park and Whistler Road — are also due to be repaved.

The total amount of roads requiring re-paving this year is about 90,000 square metres, which would take about 17,000 tonnes of asphalt.

2017 TRANSPORTATION ACTION PLAN ENDORSED

After hearing recommendations to improve traffic congestion in Whistler at its May 23 meeting, council officially endorsed the 2017 Transportation Action Plan on June 6.

The plan includes implementing pay parking in lots 4 and 5 during peak seasons, both of which are currently free.

That move in particular has sparked opposition from some locals, and a petition to keep the lots free had reached 750 supporters by June 6.

"Many of the concerns there are essentially around affordability. This action plan really is aimed at increasing transportation options and the Transportation Advisory Group (TAG) took a lot of that affordability issue into account," Hallisey said at the June 6 council meeting.

"There are some things in this plan that do address affordability; the TAG fully understood though that it is going to be difficult to make everybody happy with this — they really had to look at what is the greater good of the whole community, and we believe that this plan does go to that end."

A discounted rate of $5 daily and $30 monthly will be implemented for residents and employees for lots 4 and 5 from July 1 to Sept. 4 and Dec. 15 to Apr. 15.

There is no planned limit to how many resident-employee parking passes will be sold.

The passes will be available to out-of-town workers as well if they provide a pay stub as proof of employment.

There are also discussions taking place with the Whistler Chamber of Commerce to offer a Spirit Transit Pass as part of the Chamber's Spirit program, though details have yet to be worked out.

Other actions for 2017 are spread across five areas: Highway 99 Efficiencies; Transit Improvements; Peak Day Operations; Better Parking Management; and Preferred Transportation Modes.

Starting July 1, the new rates for parking in lots 1 to 3 will be $10 daily (up from $8) and $50 monthly (up from $30), with a maximum stay of 24 hours (down from the current 72).

Village surface lots will be free until 10 a.m., and hourly rates for village lots will stay at $1 for the first hour and $2 for the second.

There will be more free transit this summer (Saturday, Sunday and holiday Mondays, from Canada Day until Labour Day); cheaper bus passes (from $65/month to $50); increased service to the tune of 1,750 more hours; and secure bicycle parking in Whistler Village.

A queue-jumper lane for BC Transit busses to bypass congestion at Creekside will also be piloted this summer.

"We expect this to be effective, we expect to see changes, but we don't expect that all the traffic and parking congestion is going to disappear after July 1 when we roll this out," Hallisey said.

"This is the first step in a long-term plan."

More details can be found at www.whistler.ca/movingwhistler.

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