Council gears up for final year of term 

Housing, transportation remain priority items at annual council retreat

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - ONE YEAR OUT Council held a strategic planning retreat on Nov. 14, where priorities were set for the final year of the term.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • ONE YEAR OUT Council held a strategic planning retreat on Nov. 14, where priorities were set for the final year of the term.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months of life in Whistler, it's clear what the priority will be for most — and it's the same for the decision makers at the council table.

"Housing," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, without hesitation, when asked which pressing issue topped the list at mayor and council's annual planning retreat on Nov. 14.

"Yeah, not surprising. But it's all very closely linked to transportation and to affordability, as well."

Draft recommendations developed through the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing and presented at a community forum on Nov. 2 will come to council as official recommendations on Dec. 19, after which the Resort Municipality of Whistler will move forward with implementation of some of the ideas.

It's been more than a year since the task force was formed in October 2016, and much of the work done to this point has involved research — a fact that doesn't sit well with some in the community who would like to see less talk and more action.

"We've been criticized that 'another year has gone by,'" Wilhelm-Morden acknowledged.

"But as I've said many times, I can be criticized for making evidence-based decisions — I'll defend that any day of the week."

Along with action on housing, key focus areas for 2018 include transportation and affordability, the mayor added.

But even as housing takes up much of council's attention in the coming months, Wilhelm-Morden has no illusions that the problem will disappear by the end of the term.

"We won't have it solved within a year, and we will never have complete resolution of the housing issues," she said. "But we will have it well in hand in one year's time."

The annual, all-day retreat at the Delta Village Suites was the first for newly minted Councillor Cathy Jewett, who was sworn in at a ceremony on Nov. 7.

"She's holding her own. Her vast community and volunteer experience is coming into play in a very good way," Wilhelm-Morden said. "She's asking the right questions, she's making the correct comments, she's anxious and eager to learn. It's really quite lovely to have her on council with us."

Despite being a relative newcomer to council, the retreat didn't hold any surprises for Jewett, she said.

"It was very productive going over all the priorities that were set by the previous council and making sure that we're on track," Jewett said.

"I think that what we have to appreciate is that we've given staff a very big list for a town our size, and they're working away at it as much as they have the capacity to, so I'd say that we're definitely moving forward, but we have to be careful not to pile too much on the plate."

On the transportation front this winter, pay parking returns to Day Lots 4 and 5 from Dec. 15 to April 15, with active traffic management during peak periods and snow clearing on the Valley Trail to encourage active transportation.

A carpool program is also planned for lots 4 and 5. Whistler residents or employees will be able to buy a carpool pass for $30, which can be used with up to four license plates (but only one at a time).

Drivers should expect high volume between Dec. 23 and Jan. 9 (last year, lots were full after 10 a.m.)

More info on winter transportation initiatives will be posted to www.whistler.ca.

BC Transit's full winter service begins Wednesday, Dec. 13. Head to www.bctransit.com/whistler in early December to see the full winter schedule.

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