Letters to the editor 

Hotels and competitive advantage

It is my understanding that there is still one hotel site left in Whistler on the Hyatt lands that does not have a current Development Permit. From a hotel industry perspective it makes no sense to encourage more hotels in Whistler. Likewise from a community standpoint more capacity means more peak visitors, more staff and more housing pressure. What is needed is a partnership that will maintain Whistler's competitive advantage and the competitive advantage of the local accommodation industry.

Michael Porter, one of the foremost business gurus and frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review, quite often states that increasing barriers to entry for an industry will sustain profitability of those companies already taking part in the industry. Many of his articles also state that increased growth isn’t always a good thing, and that securing unique competences through design and employees will be crucial to secure a competitive advantage.

For the accommodation industry in Whistler there are four certain entries into the market that have the potential to erode current market share: The Four Seasons, The Pan Pacific, Nita Lake Lodge and the future IROC development. These projects have all been accepted by municipal planners and are set to be developed in the next three years. Nothing can be done to stop that. But…

Would it potentially make sense for the current accommodation sector in Whistler to purchase the Hyatt lands to create a barrier to entry for new competitors?

From a municipal standpoint could it potentially make sense to restrict the development of the hotel units and therefore reduce demand on employee housing and municipal services?

Perhaps the municipality and local hotel industry could partner together, with hotels purchasing the land for their employees and the municipality restricting hotel development for resident housing. What would be the costs vs. the benefits of this project? I don’t have specifics of the purchasing costs, but hotels would gain by not losing market share and by ensuring a reliable supply of happy employees, and the entire community would gain by having less housing pressure, happy residents and happy visitors. Perhaps the potential for a win-win situation and a long-term competitive advantage for the hotels and our community.

Dan Wilson

Whistler

The Resort Municipality of Whistler would like to thank the hundreds of involved citizens, employees, second home-owners, business managers and other stakeholders who participated in Phase 2 of Whistler. It's our Future , the program to develop the comprehensive sustainability plan.

During November: 993 printed workbooks were distributed, the Web site received 147,118 hits and more than 5,000 unique visits, 610 workbooks and comprehensive backgrounder files were downloaded, several hundred people stopped by the open house on Nov. 15, and we received more than 800 responses to the questionnaire, along with numerous meaningful comments and suggestions. This significant level of involvement is another example of commitment to sustainability in this community.

A great deal of credit must go to the 21-member citizen advisory group who helped develop the five futures and the public consultation program, and who were on hand at the open house to help answer questions.

We would also like to extend our appreciation to members of the local media for helping to create awareness of the consultation program and providing thoughtful and articulate editorial on the issue.

The final steps of Phase 2 include compiling the results of the questionnaire for analysis, and posting everyone's comments on the whistlerfuture.com Web site. Phase 3 begins in early January as staff and council prepares a blended or preferred future, based on the analysis of the feedback, which will once again be presented to public in February. Updates will be provided at council meetings and posted to the municipal Web site ( www.whistler.ca ) regularly.

For those who did not have an opportunity to provide their input, please feel free to contact me 604-935-8118 or call the Whistler Future information line at 604-935-8333

Mike Vance

General Manager, Community Initiatives

Resort Municipality of Whistler

This letter was addressed to MLAs Ted Nebbeling, Kevin Falcon and Premier Gordon Campbell.

The Liberal Government of B.C., in its effort to replace the N.D.P., bought its way into the minds of voters by generously handing out millions of dollars in tax deductions. We have been paying for this lavishness ever since, and we are now the province carrying the greatest debt load. At the same time, the government has failed to respond to the basic needs of the citizens of B.C. (who, incidentally, pay your ample salaries) as you trample on the poor, the handicapped, many elderly, and the children, few of whom have a voice or a vote to concern you.

We, as knowledgeable taxpayers in our own communities, strive to do what is best for all citizens. We live, work and engage in the life of our various areas. We share our ideas and arrive at solutions in a democratic and open milieu. Sometimes we win, sometimes not, but we are free to share our ideas and be listened to.

The government is telling us that Bill 75 will benefit B.C. at large. We are more than aware that, if this bill is enacted, it will put the blocks to the voice of the NIMBYS, your name for people like Senator Kennedy, Robert Bateman, among a host of others, who speak for the rights of all citizens. Their message is that all might enjoy clean water, fresh air, protected parks (with services you dramatically cut ), where animals, birds, fish and trees are valued, not only for us but for generations to come.

To unscrupulously disrupt the balance of nature by continuing to build roads for commercial development in sensitive areas, by encouraging development in the pristine fishing waters off the Queen Charlotte Islands, by building a pipeline directly through the route taken for centuries by hundreds of thousands of Arctic Caribou – these proposals will become a reality under Bill 75 as you continue to put our province on the chopping block, considering only the quick dollars gained through huge development contracts.

Fast tracking contracts with little or no public consultation is characteristic of a dictatorship, not a democracy. It tells us that The Significant Projects Streamlining Act can more accurately be called The Significant Projects Steamrolling Act as it is clear that, regardless of the serious consequences, B.C. is now up for sale.

Shirley and Michael Thompson

Whistler

I am writing to express some thoughts, on behalf of our association, on the proposed Mkw‚alts Creek small-hydro project. To begin, we would like to express our thanks for the positive and constructive manner in which Cloudworks has engaged the paddling community regarding the project’s potential impacts.

Beyond any doubt, the association has ongoing concerns with the number of micro-hydro projects proposed in this area, and the obvious lack of provincial planning for these. We are alarmed, both as river users, and as residents concerned about the health of the environment, with the looming loss of recreational opportunities and the haphazard changes to river ecosystems.

We also recognize we are a recreation interest, and as such we are only one part of the larger community, where issues and concerns may extend beyond those of our instream users. Our members however, are not only paddlers, but people who live and work in this area. And yes, we participate in a number of recreational activities that are a key part of the attraction this area offers.

Our members are more supportive of projects, if these are required, such as the one on Mkw‚alts Creek, that are proposed on streams which are not the most utilized, or the highest value to the recreation users and further, that real efforts are made to address concerns put forth.

To conclude, we are pleased that a community-based recreational kayak program for schools and youth will be supported by this project. A program such as this provides long-term recreational opportunities to the communities in this area, and enhances the reasons why so many of us have chosen to reside here.

At a time when there are numerous concerns, and when so much conflict and confrontation over these concerns appears in the media, we wanted to express that from our perspective, there are individuals and companies making real efforts to hear concerns and address community issues and that their efforts are noticed and appreciated.

Stuart Smith

WKABC River Projects Coordinator

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Drugs are bad and so are you.

I was very disappointed when I walked out of the score booth at Meadow Park Sports Centre to have the smell of drugs being smoked by players from dressing room #3 - The Summit hockey team, Men’s A League. We did go and phone the RCMP but they would not come unless we knew exactly who was smoking it.

I find this very disappointing, after being a graduate from the D.A.R.E program, that the RCMP would not show up.

I’m pretty ticked at the hockey players themselves and the RCMP, because there were kids there a bit younger than me. It is Whistler Minor Hockey’s ice time until 8 p.m. (This is not the first time it has happened.) It does seem to be the in thing for men’s hockey in Whistler. It is not right that a visiting team and a home team should have to smell the drugs while showering after their game.

A hockey rink is no place for drugs so grow up!

Ryan Rive, age: 11

Whistler

The initial deadline set for selecting one of the five options provided in the Whistler. It’s Our Future Comprehensive Sustainability Plan (aka the O.C.P.) has now passed.

Unofficially, I have been informed that there is a chance of a short extension to the deadline, but no chance of a mail-out occurring to the second homeowner group. For this reason alone, I believe that the yet to be announced "preferred future option" should be deemed invalid due to the exclusion of this large group’s input.

Before I go on I will state that I do not oppose resident restricted housing. I do however, oppose development beyond 55,500 bed units. I do not support lifting the existing bed cap for development of any type.

I would like to know why there is such a need to rush forward through this critical decision making process. If it is to satisfy a deadline related to locating the Olympic athletes village, then that should be decided on its own. We don’t need to connect lifting the bed cap and adding 7,100 bed units to deciding where an athletes village should go. Especially when we don’t even know what Whistler will look and feel like when we reach 55,500 BUs.

Amending the bed cap at this stage of Whistler’s development is a decision that should only be decided by referendum. Not by a process such as the one underway, where at the end of the day, the council makes the decision. A majority vote by referendum of 75 per cent of all registered voters should be necessary to approve lifting the bed cap. Only then should we be deciding where we are going to put the development and in what form it should take.

There are still 7,000 bed units to be built before we actually reach 55,500, or a 15 per cent increase over the current count. This includes 4,400+ hotel units, 2,000+ market units and 500+ employee units. All 7,000 units are already allocated to properties with development underway or being proposed, except for approx. 500 floaters.

If you add another 7,000 bed units to this, as is proposed in four of the five options, we are opening the door to an overall increase of 30 per cent over the number of beds existing in Whistler today. I cannot imagine how this will lead to an experience desirable by either visitors or residents, especially when we are already seeing lengthy periods of excessive congestion during both summer and winter seasons.

I must again re-iterate that the CSP process seems flawed in many ways. Some of the information contained in the detail package is questionable. There is no statement of how accurate figures may be +/- and assumptions are not provided.

Just how accurate is the estimate of resident "leakage" and required employee numbers at build-out and how exactly were they calculated? I also question the calculation of 48 per cent of staff residing in Whistler if no further development is allowed. It is noted that the majority of the predicted growth is somehow only going to occur in the shoulder seasons. If this were the case, there would not be any need for any additional beds, there would only be higher occupancy rates within the existing units over the entire year.

Has any consideration been given to the fact that many rental units will become available when a large number of construction workers move on once the remaining 7,000 bed units have been built out? Building another 7,000 employee beds will only delay those rental units becoming vacant. What is this number?

There are other approaches to maintaining or increasing employee beds without actually building our way out of the problem and right into a bigger one. I’m certain that if further time is spent on this approach, we will find ways.

What exactly is being done to manage and police the existing resident restricted units? I have the impression that not enough is being done. I have been told two stories in the past week of people being charged non-approved rents in price restricted units and rentals to people who have just moved here from Vancouver to retire and who are not planning to work. This will certainly increase "leakage" if not properly managed.

All four of the growth options presented will impact the annual municipal budget negatively. This is largely due to the lower than average tax assessment, which will apply to the large number of employee units to be built. Tax or other revenues will have to increase to cover these "subsidized" units. If we are going to have to subsidize the offering of employee units, perhaps the same dollars should be put towards creating major incentives for existing market property owners to buy into the creation of resident restricted units within their existing market properties. In essence buying back the employee beds from within the existing market units already built. If the Quest analysis data was correct as viewed at the open house, there could be an impact in the millions of dollars on the annual budget related to this fact. I think we could create a lot of employee beds with that kind of money by creating highly attractive tax incentives to existing property owners.

Perhaps employee housing should be built, but elsewhere. Pemberton and Mt. Currie are both in need of increased economic activity to help acquire financial and community stability. Amenities such as a pool, rink and rec centre can only be gained with a significant population. Perhaps swapping the 300 acres in the Callaghan valley for land close to those communities will help our neighbours.

The statement in the CSP detail noting that customer service may deteriorate due to employees not being able to live in Whistler is truly questionable. I can attest to the fact that many of the employees whom I work with commute, and they have always done an excellent job of providing customer service, regardless of whether they were living in Whistler, Pemberton, Squamish, Mt. Currie or D’arcy. They prefer to live in those communities and many do not want to live here because of what Whistler has become, they only want to work and play here. I believe allowing further growth will drive out more of the people who have formed the foundations of this community.

Perhaps the Callaghan land can be sold to a golf course developer and we can use the money to buy back market housing for conversion to employee restricted.

Enough said; I’m sure others have better ideas to resolve this issue that don’t involve further building.

Any Whistler resident or property owner who feels that the current process should be halted before a decision is made to raise the bed cap should e-mail the mayor and council or send a letter to municipal hall.

Be sure to request a referendum as the only means to raise the cap.

Kevin Rea

Whistler

I just wanted to write in that in general I really enjoy reading Pique and I look forward to each new issue. However, I was really offended by the Bearfoot Bistro ad this week. I thought a coloured picture of painted naked women was inappropriate and it made me uncomfortable. Thanks for listening.

Patricia Quinn

Whistler

Doing good things

Last week the Pique acknowledged the re-establishment of the Whistler Employment Centre. Truth is, the business community would have little more than a soulless space if not for the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS), who along with the dogged determination of Marta Sutherland (and RMOW), funded the staff for this caring / competent resource centre. This is the same quiet little band of do-gooders who grabbed the void that thousands fall into this time of year and filled it with Whistler Welcome Week . Attach yourself to any community goal in town and you'll find WCSS got the funding, handled the administration, or organized the volunteers.

These masters of recycling help people who have less, get more through the Reuse-it-Centre, then plough the proceeds back into community ventures (and you think you've got a clever business model). Long after we've done our thing in Whistler, let’s just hope there’s the people who keep filling the implied mission of WCSS – doing good things.

Brent Leigh

President,

Whistler Chamber of Commerce

Thank you to the following people and businesses who either through donations of appetizers or hard work, helped make the 11th annual Pemberton Library Wine and Cheese another successful good time. Pemberton Trail Steakhouse, Nesters Market, Swiss Deli, Pemberton Valley Supermarket. Moon Farm Organic Meats, The Pony Bread and Butter Bakery, Tina Kaiser, Rachel Paul, Shannon Ellis, Marilyn Marinus, Liz Kelly Annette Wiltse, Seja Evans, Gennaro Caschera, Trisha Field, Tracey Wilkins, Colleen Alfier, Doreen Snider, Amy Mussett and board members Julie Kelly, Jan Naylor, Annikka Snow, Doris Matthews, Evelyn Coggins, Art Johnson, Shelley Ackerman, Bill Janyk, Elinor Warner, and to Hanna Kruger who opened up her home to over 100 people.

Julie Kelly

Pemberton

At this point, everyone must be getting tired of reading my letters to the editor in regards to the sale of BC Rail (especially Lori). And let me write, that I have never managed to squeeze so much from the C- that I did not earn in English 12. Anyway I like trains, so here is another letter about the railway (sorry Lori).

The provincial government has accepted CN Rail’s proposal and the takeover of BC Rail is about to begin. For 13 months I have tried to prevent it. At this point it would probably be wiser of me to accept the fact that I have lost this battle and surrender. Instead I shall retreat, regroup and plan a new attack. Here is my proposal.

CN Rail only has a lease on the operations of our railway. BC Rail, a provincial Crown corporation still owns the land and railway tracks. I propose that we take the gate that used to block automobile traffic between Spruce Grove and White Gold and place it directly across the railway tracks (they’re ours). But instead of leaving it closed, I suggest we leave it open and only close it when CN Rail is about to pass through town. Then we charge them an exorbitant per-railcar fee. With the disgusting amounts of money we collect (because CN can afford to pay it), we pay our toll-collector $50 an hour (is that enough to buy a house in Whistler?) and give the rest to Via Rail. In return, Via Rail provides a free transit service for us between Whistler and Vancouver then takes the surplus cash and buys everyone in town a ski pass.

What do you think, Shall I fetch the gate?

Bjorn Gimse

Whistler

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