Councillor Jewett officially introduced 

Council briefs: Questions persist around housing, growth; Council expenses policy updated

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - IT'S OFFICIAL Councillor Cathy Jewett and the Honourable Judge William Rodgers sign Jewett's Oath of Office at her swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • IT'S OFFICIAL Councillor Cathy Jewett and the Honourable Judge William Rodgers sign Jewett's Oath of Office at her swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

In introducing Whistler's newest councillor Cathy Jewett at the Nov. 7 council meeting, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden spent most of her time at the podium listing Jewett's immense volunteer contributions over the past three-plus decades.

Among them: founding member of the Association for Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, current chair of Communities that Care Whistler (and a member for 14 years), six years on the Community Foundation of Whistler youth and scholarship committee and five years as chair of the Sea to Sky Parent Advisory Group — to name just a few.

"Cathy, your passion for the community and positive energy are a welcome addition to this council and we look forward to having you as part of the team that will serve the community together in the final year of this council term," Wilhelm-Morden said.

Following her official introduction, Jewett took her seat behind the council table with her new colleagues to applause from those in attendance.

The councillor-elect was officially sworn in at a ceremony earlier that morning.

"I'd like to acknowledge my fellow candidates in the past byelection — they are all passionate Whistlerites and I look forward to seeing them next year in the election," Jewett said after reciting her Oath of Office and signing it, along with the Honourable Judge William Rodgers.

"I also look forward to finding common ground with my fellow councillors and with our mayor so that we can collaboratively make good decisions for Whistler and have an impact that is felt more broadly.

"I would like to invite our voters, residents — short-term and long-term — to continue to give us feedback and consult with us to help mayor, council and staff work towards finding solutions to issues that affect us.

"My decisions will be guided by putting our community first. Thank you for your support in the past byelection, and now we get to work."

QUESTIONS PERSIST AROUND HOUSING, GROWTH

As the discussion around growth and housing continues, more prominent Whistlerites are asking questions about what's in store for the resort in the near future.

Following up on a letter to council from developer Steve Bayly, Garry Watson — one of Whistler's original council members and one of only 14 Whistlerites to be awarded Freedom of the Municipality — was on hand for the Nov. 7 council meeting to ask questions related to future development tied to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Province, Whistler Blackcomb and local First Nations and endorsed by council on April 25.

The questions came about after some extended discussions with Bayly and other concerned community members, Watson said.

"It is significant to note that the reference to 'development opportunities' appears five times in the text of the MOU, given a pretty great deal of emphasis," Watson said.

"It is absolutely clear that the community's first, foremost and pressing priority is to resolve its desperate need for substantially more restricted employee housing, but also that any new or additional development could severely exacerbate the situation by contributing to an even greater demand for more employee housing.

"Will council instruct its staff to reach agreement with the other parties to the MOU to suspend any further discussions regarding new development opportunities unless and until satisfactory solutions to the current housing crisis are found and implemented?"

Wilhelm-Morden said she feels the issues of housing and the MOU are separate, and cited the work of the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing in her response.

"The 1,000 beds in five years was a conservative estimate. I have every expectation that we will exceed that," the mayor said, adding that in the case of the MOU, it simply states that the parties will commit to discussing certain issues of mutual concern.

"It doesn't mean that we are going to immediately implement development schemes across the valley, hardly that at all," she said.

"I appreciate your concerns about further development exacerbating the problem of resident restricted housing — we all do. And we're not going to go down any road that will exacerbate those issues."

A second question from Watson concerned the confidential Umbrella Agreement tied to the MOU, and one phrase in particular: "Whilst not a signatory to the agreement and the obligations set out therein, the RMOW has applauded its conclusions."

"My question is, what are the conclusions in the Umbrella Agreement that have been applauded to on our behalf, that we're not privy to?" Watson asked.

Wilhelm-Morden said she thinks the wording is "a bit of a misdescription," as the RMOW doesn't know the terms laid out in the Umbrella Agreement.

"We applaud the fact that the agreement has been entered into, not necessarily of its conclusions," the mayor said.

"We do need to know some of the terms of the Umbrella Agreement in order to move forward with completing our (OCP)... we've asked for those terms to be disclosed to us, and that is under consideration at this time."

COUNCIL EXPENSES POLICY UPDATED

Also at the Nov. 7 meeting, council replaced its Expenses Policy with an updated Council Travel and Expense Reimbursement Policy.

The main change is a move to per diems ($60/day for travel inside North America, $70/day outside N.A.) and a focus on best practices (like choosing modes of transportation that minimize costs and greenhouse gas emissions).

The policy states that the RMOW will reimburse mayor and council for eligible expenses like travel fares, accommodations, mileage and purchases made on behalf of the organization.

To be eligible, expenses must be incurred only for the purpose of representing the RMOW.

Some expenses are not reimbursable, like toiletries, reading materials, childcare and in-room movies, or expenses incurred by family members.

The annual council budget for 2017 is $428,728, of which $300,007 goes to wages.

To date this year, $16,300 of council's $18,000 travel and meal budget has been spent.

In total, council has spent $348,619 of its 2017 budget.

Q3 PLANNING AND BUILDING REPORT RECEIVED

While the number of demolition permit applications in the RMOW's building department is up this year — 54 through Q3 compared to 45 in all of 2016 — that's not necessarily an indication that more homes are being torn down (and subsequently more employee beds lost).

"We have had a total of nine total demolitions for single family homes," said building department manager Joe Mooney at the Nov. 7 council meeting, adding that the bulk of the applications are related to renovations or smaller demolitions.

Both the planning and building departments have been busy again this year, according to the RMOW's Q3 application activity report, though both departments are tracking slightly below where they were last year.

The planning department received 54 new applications in Q3, for a total of 152 so far this year — down from the 172 and 183 through Q3 of 2016 and 2015, respectively.

In the building department, 336 new applications were received in Q3 for a total intake of 1,008 so far this year (1,048 in 2016, 894 in 2015).

In terms of rezoning and development permit applications that will eventually require council approval, there are currently 34 files — 17 under active review and 17 currently with the applicant to address concerns and conditions.

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