Resort Municipality of Whistler comes back to the table with revised DES deal 

New deal offers $5K rebate to Cheakamus homeowners provided 75% of each respective strata sign waiver

click to enlarge WWW.WHISTLER.CA - Des deal Cheakamus Crossing homeowners now have the potential to receive a $5,000 rebate to help ease the financial strain caused by the neighbourhood's controversial heating system.
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  • Des deal Cheakamus Crossing homeowners now have the potential to receive a $5,000 rebate to help ease the financial strain caused by the neighbourhood's controversial heating system.

The RMOW has come back to the table with a new offer to help cover Cheakamus Crossing homeowners' costs associated with the neighbourhood's controversial heating system after residents rejected a previous iteration of the deal.

The revised offer would make homeowners eligible for a $5,000 rebate as long as 75 per cent of a particular strata sign a waiver. The deadline to sign is Nov. 1.

"I think this is an offer the people should embrace so that they can move on with the remediation of their systems," said Tony Routley, the neighbourhood appointee to the Cheakamus Crossing DES Committee. "It's as good as it gets."

The latest deal is the culmination of nearly five years of lobbying from the volunteer group, led by Routley, who worked to find a solution to the litany of technical issues some homeowners had. Touted by officials in the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics as an energy-efficient and less-costly alternative to traditional heating, the DES has resulted in thousands of dollars in repairs for some owners.

"This challenge has taken a lot of people's time and energy over the last few years," said Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton. "I hope this investment provides capacity for people to continue building our community."

Under the terms of the new deal, homeowners will be able to use the $5,000 as they see fit. The previous offer, which was rejected in January, put the onus on the neighbourhood's five stratas to determine how the funds would be divvied up. It also required 100 per cent of a strata to agree to the deal in order for anyone to access the funds.

The rebates will be covered by the $870,000 loan to municipal subsidiary and developer of the former Athletes' Village, the Whistler 2020 Development Corporation (WDC), that was originally approved by Whistler's outgoing mayor and council last September.

Now, the 174 Cheakamus homeowners will have to decide whether to stay on the DES, or replace it with another heating system.

"Straight up, this gives people the ability to move forward," Routley said. "We should move forward with the remediation of our systems and really figure out exactly what it is we want to do. It could be different for each individual."

With two Whistler Housing Authority projects on the horizon in Cheakamus, Crompton said he is confident the DES will be an effective heating system for new residents.

"We trust the work of the professionals building those developments," he said.

More than a decade after it was installed, there is still little consensus on what exactly led to the operational issues with the ambient heating system. A 2017 report commissioned by WDC stated that there does not "appear to be any widespread systemic issues with the DES or the individual home heating systems that are the result of installation or component failure," although technicians did note the initial cleaning and start-up of the systems at the time of installation "may have been lacking."

Routley, who has gained considerable knowledge of the DES through his committee work, believes the issues were a combination of two factors: the hard water that flowed through the system and the incorrect combination of parts installed on the units.

"It's a complex system with a whole bunch of parts, and all those parts were not combined correctly to get the outcome that was promised," he said. "You can also break that down into a water issue, because it's high-mineral and caused damage to the systems, so we needed a different kind of heat exchanger because the one that was used was not good for high-mineral, hard water."

Although he's satisfied with the latest deal, Routley said, looking back, "the one thing I'm unhappy about is that this took so long and was so difficult to convince [officials] that we had issues."

For Crompton, who has served on council since 2011, the biggest takeaway from the DES issue was that the municipality can "successfully have very straightforward and candour-filled discussions with our community," he said. "This has not been an easy solution and we haven't gotten here without a lot of candour and respect."

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