Olympic spending to be tracked 

Decisions on land bank, financial tools, boundary expansion all rest with Victoria

Council plans to track Whistler’s Olympic spending and report back to the community.

And Mayor Ken Melamed reiterated his commitment to follow up on other Olympic legacies including financial tools.

"We, as far as I know, have not been tracking (Olympic spending) it in a reportable fashion," said Melamed. "I think there’s a sense on council that there’s a desire in the community to have that information."

He admits it may be difficult to track staff time spent on Olympic planning but the hard costs, such as travel expenses and supplies, will be more straightforward.

"My expectation is that we’re going to do something like that," said the mayor. "I think we have to show that this was a positive opportunity, a positive impact for the community, and there’s only one way to do that and that’s to show what the returns were versus the expenditures."

It was Councillor Bob Lorriman who first raised the issue of tracking Olympic spending during council’s Monday afternoon workshop.

Monday evening, in response to a request from a community member for an update on the Olympic negotiations, Melamed said Whistler’s requests for financial tools, boundary expansion and a land bank rest in the province’s hands.

The municipality considers all three issues "legacies" it negotiated with the province in return for supporting the 2010 Olympic bid.

The 300 acre land bank, which involves Crown land being transferred to the RMOW for "affordable" employee housing, is sitting with the province. Municipal staff has signed off on the lands, which include roughly 150 acres at Cheakamus South, the lands above the proposed Rainbow development, a bench on the road up to Kadenwood and a chunk of land at the Callaghan that may also be sought by First Nations or VANOC.

"Our submission is complete," Melamed told the audience. "It rests with the province."

The RMOW’s boundary expansion, which includes large tracts of land on all sides of the municipality, was submitted to the province more than a year ago. It is not clear if and when that will be approved.

"It sits in an office in Victoria," said Melamed.

And the financial tools are still part of ongoing negotiations.

The RMOW, in partnership with other B.C. resorts, has proposed a deal that would see the resorts get a bigger share of the provincial hotel tax. Currently the province collects a 10 per cent tax on hotel rooms in B.C. Whistler gets two per cent of that tax on its hotel rooms, the province gets the remainder.

Melamed said they were hoping for a positive response to their proposal for financial tools in the spring legislature. At this point, however, he said that would take a minor miracle.

When asked later about Whistler’s relationship with the province the mayor said: "The relationships are going well…. There is a willingness and a receptiveness at the government for our issues. It seems like they’re politely stalling. I don’t know any other way to describe it ’cause we’re just not getting resolution on these issues."

He did say, however, that he’s confident the land bank deal will move ahead because Whistler cannot build the athletes village without it. As for the other two legacies, he’s not as confident.

"The boundary expansion and the financial tools, we put them in the category of ongoing lobbying efforts and we’re doing everything we can to resolve them."

Dave Crebo, spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Services which is handling both the financial tools and the boundary expansion, said the province was not stalling.

He called the boundary expansion "a work in progress" adding that new information was sent to Whistler this week.

As for the financial tools Crebo said there is ongoing dialogue with the resorts in the Resort Collaborative.

"There’s nothing imminent there but the dialogue is happening," he said.

When asked if financial tools were high on the province’s agenda he added:

"There’s a dedicated group who’s working on that. They’re working with the communities and the process is playing itself out."

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