Iles gets rare RMOW honour 

Council briefs: Making way for garbage

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - rare air Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden presents mountain biker Finn Iles with an Athletic Achievement Certificate on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
  • photo by braden dupuis
  • rare air Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden presents mountain biker Finn Iles with an Athletic Achievement Certificate on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

A rare honour was bestowed upon a local athlete at the Nov. 15 meeting of Whistler council.

Finn Iles was presented an Athletic Achievement Certificate from the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) — a recognition typically reserved for Olympians, and one that hasn't been awarded in recent memory.

"I don't recall ever having done it before," Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said after the meeting.

"He's a remarkable kid and he's just had incredible achievements, and really, whether it's athletics or arts, we want to recognize those members in our community who have really had outstanding achievements, and this is a young man who is 17 years old."

Iles' growing list of accomplishments would be impressive for anyone, let alone a teenager.

In 2016 he became the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) downhill mountain bike junior men's world champion in Italy, as well as the overall UCI World Cup champion in Andorra, winning three of seven World Cup races and finishing second in two others.

Also in 2016, Iles won the junior men's Canadian Open at Crankworx and the junior men's Canadian National Downhill Championships.

In 2014, at just 14 years old, he became the youngest Crankworx Official Whip Off World Champion after organizers made a special exception for him to compete — and then he took the title again in 2016.

"He's been a provincial champion in BMX, hockey and ski racing, and he has won competitions in cross-country and enduro bike racing, cross-country ski racing, as well as slope style and freeride ski events," Wilhelm-Morden said in presenting Iles with his certificate.

"Thank you Finn for representing Whistler as an athlete, and we will all be watching your career as it moves on."

A large crowd of friends and family were on hand to see the presentation, which Iles acknowledged afterwards.

"I'd just like to say thank you to everyone for coming out tonight and supporting me over the last couple of years," he said.

"Hopefully I can keep it going with your support."

FINDING SPACE FOR GARBAGE SORTING

An update to Whistler's Solid Waste Bylaw could have big implications for businesses and stratas.

As part of the update, businesses and stratas will have to separate waste into three streams: Garbage to landfill, food scraps and recyclables — but not all of them have the space for such an operation.

That realization stalled the bylaw, which was originally planned for implementation this year.

The RMOW has been engaged with 40 different businesses throughout the process.

"Initially a bunch of them just looked at it like, 'Well, how do we comply with this?' and that's what's taken some time, is that for some of them, it's going to be really hard under the existing zoning bylaw," said general manager of infrastructure James Hallisey after the meeting.

"We need to fix some of that first, to allow all of them to get on board."

The RMOW is proposing a companion zoning amendment bylaw to address some of the issues. Initial thoughts for that bylaw include increased gross floor area exemptions for garbage rooms in buildings and allowances for parking reduction to allow space to be converted.

But the situation varies massively location-by-location, Hallisey said.

"We just need to provide a little more incentive for people to do this, and a lot of times they are going to save money in the long term because it is just a lot cheaper to get rid of organic waste than it is garbage, and costs of handling garbage are just going to keep going up," he said.

Businesses and stratas will be responsible for the costs of coming into compliance.

Once the new bylaw is in effect — tentatively in August 2017 with enforcement beginning in 2018 — the RMOW expects that between 3,200 and 6,400 tonnes of garbage will be diverted to either food scraps or recycling every year.

The changes will lead to a reduction in both revenues and costs, with net savings to the solid-waste budget estimated between $46,000 and $92,000 per year.

AMENDMENTS FLOATED FOR GFA EXCLUSIONS

After dealing with the problem of illegal spaces, the RMOW is now moving to address some of the unintended consequences — namely, bigger homes and changing neighbourhoods.

The "illegal spaces bylaw" was introduced in 2012 as a means of legitimizing crawlspaces and other illegal spaces in the municipality.

The bylaw allowed the exclusion of basement floor areas and exterior walls that are thicker than 15 centimetres from the calculation of gross floor area (GFA) for detached and duplex dwellings.

The exclusions were intended to address issues around the use of crawl spaces in some homes that did not conform to zoning regulations.

But as an unintended result, some new builds in Whistler became noticeably taller in comparison to their neighbours, prompting the RMOW to conduct a study of "neighbourhood form and character."

And at the Nov. 15 council meeting, council directed staff to prepare a zoning amendment bylaw that would restrict the GFA that is eligible for exclusion to those portions of the basement that are actually underground.

Under the existing bylaw, complete basements qualified for exclusion from the maximum permitted GFA of a development, if on average the basement was one metre below the adjoining ground.

The new rule will require at least 50 per cent of the basement wall height to be below the ground.

"Initially it was really addressing sloping lots... we would have a house on a sloping lot and after the occupancy was issued, people would go in and close in that open space below their house — it didn't change the massing of the house, but it didn't comply with the bylaw, and that was one of the main reasons why we had the Illegal Spaces Task Force in the first place, was to deal with those kinds of instances," Wilhelm-Morden explained after the meeting.

But recently it came to the RMOW's attention that some homebuilders were using the rules as a workaround to build bigger houses.

"People were kind of creating a basement by pushing a little bit of soil up against the lower floor of their house, calling it a basement and getting a full exclusion, so instead of a three-storey house on a flat lot it became a four-storey house on a flat lot because of that excluded space," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"And that was never the intention, so that's one of the things that these new rules will address."

The mayor said she's confident the changes will have the desired effect.

"I think the working group has done a lot of really good work," she said.

"It's complicated as can be, so I think it has addressed what we wanted to address."

Coun. Steve Anderson, who sits on the Illegal Spaces Task Force and Advisory Design Panel committees, offered a similar sentiment.

"Being a part of this through the meeting schedules and the discussions that ensued, it's a really complex issue... every lot being somewhat unique," he said.

"I really think that the development department has done a good job of trying to wrestle this one to the ground. It's not an easy one."

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