Letter writers no more? 

Council briefs: RGS support deferred; WHA building advanced

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - COUNCIL BRIEFS A new Whistler Housing Authority project at 1330 Cloudburst Dr. in Cheakamus received variance permits at the Jan. 22 council meeting.
  • File photo by Braden DUpuis
  • COUNCIL BRIEFS A new Whistler Housing Authority project at 1330 Cloudburst Dr. in Cheakamus received variance permits at the Jan. 22 council meeting.

Whistler council seems to have lost its taste for letter writing.

Following the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) announcement that it lacks the legal authority to force local businesses to close their doors, Luke O'Beirne-Kelly took to the podium at the Jan. 22 council meeting to suggest council consider writing letters to the upper management of businesses with "open-door" policies in Whistler.

"Letters from council may give a bit more clout to the upper management of those particular stores," O'Beirne-Kelly said.

Whistler council's goal is to work locally, Mayor Jack Crompton said in response.

"So working on the ground with managers of the stores, and then maybe if we want to reach out—phone calls," Crompton said.

"We'll be focusing our attention on what we can do in our community."

Council can be forgiven for its new aversion to letter writing—its now-infamous letter to oil companies demanding they pay their fair share for climate-related impacts (which made national headlines last month) is still drawing attention at municipal hall.

Following up the Jan. 8 council package, which included 35 pieces of correspondence about the letter (all voicing their complete displeasure), at the Jan. 22 meeting, council received eight pieces of correspondence thanking it for the letter (along with one more expressing dismay).

With slight variations, the thank-you letters were all identical.

"As long as the fossil fuel industry makes billions of dollars on the assumption that we alone will pay for the costs of climate change, big oil companies like Chevron and Exxon Mobil will have every incentive to continue to stand in the way of real action on climate change," the letters read, in part.

The council package also included a letter from Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law (from which the "climate accountability" letter-writing campaign originated) and Tracey Saxby of My Sea to Sky, thanking council for its leadership and asking it to take two more steps: begin tracking the costs of climate change locally, and help convene a meeting with interested local government officials to explore litigation and legislation as tools to recover those costs.

The letter was received and referred to staff.

"My preference is to spend our resources taking action on climate in Whistler as opposed to undertaking litigation elsewhere, would be my comment," Crompton said.

SLRD RGS SUPPORT DEFERRED

A decision on whether or not to support the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's (SLRD) new Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) amendment bylaw was deferred at the Jan. 22 council meeting to allow the new District of Squamish council a chance to discuss the matter in depth with the SLRD board.

The SLRD has been working on the amendment (considered to be an update rather than an overhaul) since 2016.

On June 5, 2018, council endorsed in principle a draft of the document, while suggesting two changes: specifically identifying certain types of development, like new destination resorts or backcountry resorts, as triggers for RGS amendments (which would require approval from member municipalities), and; adding option sites (which could be developed) that are already included in the Whistler Blackcomb Master Development Plan to Whistler's Settlement Plan map in the proposed RGS.

"The RMOW's proposed changes pertaining to amendment triggers were extensively discussed, but not supported by the remainder of the steering committee," said senior planner Jake Belobaba, in a presentation to council.

"The prevailing opinion was that the proposed changes are adequately addressed by the existing wording in the draft of the RGS, and other SLRD approval processes."

The second change was supported by the steering committee and incorporated into the draft.

While the option sites will now be included in Whistler's Settlement Area in the RGS, any proposed development would require an amendment to Whistler's Official Community Plan (currently sitting at first reading), as well as a rezoning.

Any development would also have to fit within Whistler's existing bed cap.

Whistler's request to include the option sites in its settlement plan drew attention from proponents of the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) ski resort on Brohm Ridge at a recent Squamish council meeting.

According to the Squamish Chief, GAS' proponents argue that if Whistler's option sites are to be included within RGS settlement boundaries, it would only be fair to include GAS in that zone as well.

The assertion prompted a discussion, with Squamish council ultimately deciding to tell the SLRD a discussion ought to be had on the matter, and that the SLRD make further considerations about the fairness of the process.

But the comparison GAS is making to Whistler's option sites is potentially misleading, Crompton said after the Jan. 22 meeting.

"The comparison of Whistler Blackcomb, which is a ski resort in an existing municipality with a Master Development Agreement and 30 years history, to a speculative development outside of a municipality, is a conversation that is misleading in and of itself," he said.

The SLRD's next meeting is Wednesday, Jan. 30.

The RGS amendment will come back to council at a future meeting.

WHA BUILD GETS VARIANCE PERMIT

A new Whistler Housing Authority building in Cheakamus Crossing is working its way through the permit process.

The project at 1330 Cloudburst Dr. came back to council on Jan. 22 for approval of setback variations following a review by the municipal Advisory Design Panel.

A public hearing held on Dec. 18 in relation to the project garnered no written or verbal submissions.

The building will house 103 employee beds in 45 units, and is expected to be open in 2020.

Two other WHA builds—1020 Legacy Way (53 beds, 24 units) and 8350 Bear Paw Trail (39 beds, 20 units)—will be ready in summer 2019.

CHILDCARE FUNDING APPLICATION

Also at the Jan. 22 meeting, council passed a motion to direct staff to apply for the Union of BC Municipalities Community Child Care Planning (CCCP) program to do a childcare needs assessment, as well as manage any funds received through the program.

The CCCP—a partnership between the Ministry of Children and Family Development and UBCM—will provide up to $25,000 for local governments to develop a "childcare space creation action plan."

"I think that now would be a good time for us to do a check in with the working group on childcare, which has been kind of ad hoc," said Councillor Jen Ford.

"(It's) a good time to kind of bring those people together and have a discussion."

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