RMOW looks to cut down on water waste 

Council briefs: Housing projects could be considered together; can ICBC help collect unpaid fines?

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - WATER WASTE A bylaw to prohibit once-through cooling devices—a major factor in potable water use—is now in development after receiving the go ahead from council on March 20.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • WATER WASTE A bylaw to prohibit once-through cooling devices—a major factor in potable water use—is now in development after receiving the go ahead from council on March 20.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is working to cut out one of Whistler's biggest water wasters.

At its March 20 meeting, council directed staff to begin development of a bylaw prohibiting the use and installation of once-through cooling (OTC) devices in the resort, which use potable drinking water in certain types of cooling, refrigeration and ice-making equipment (commonly found in hotels and restaurants).

As it stands now, OTC devices use the cold temperature of the local water supply to cool certain devices before discarding the water into the sanitary sewer system.

A well-maintained, small-to-medium sized OTC unit uses about six litres of water per minute.

With units typically running 12 hours a day, the consumption rate can add up to 1,600 cubic metres of water per year for each unit (enough to fill half an Olympic-sized swimming pool).

With council's assent, staff will now develop a bylaw that prohibits new installation of OTC units connected to the municipal water supply and grandfather existing OTC equipment, with an eye to an eventual complete phase out of OTC.

By grandfathering existing OTC equipment, the RMOW hopes to minimize impacts to businesses by deferring replacement costs until current equipment reaches the end of its life.

Councillor Steve Anderson wondered if a "sunset date" of two years could be added rather than grandfathering existing equipment in, as the lifespan of some of the equipment could be another decade.

Other jurisdictions, like the City of Vancouver, have set a hard date of 2019, Anderson noted.

"That's really what the engagement is going to be ... is where should we set that, or should we set a limit at all, how big a hardship is that?" replied general manager of infrastructure James Hallisey.

"So we need to do a little bit of work to determine how quickly is the end of life for some of these things, and how big a deal is that—is it tens of thousands of dollars or is it something that people can deal with in a fairly straightforward way?"

Targeted consultation with affected stakeholders will take place this spring.

Meanwhile, an open house for Whistler's new Water Use Bylaw—which caused some controversy last year among local landscapers—is set for Thursday, March 22 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Whistler Conference Centre's Spearhead Room.

PRIVATE HOUSING PROJECTS COULD BE CONSIDERED TOGETHER

At its March 6 meeting, council voted not to permit an increase in the amount of housing allowed at the Nesters Crossing industrial subdivision as part of a proposal that included a dozen amendments to the zoning.

"This was based on the premise that the zoning of the area is not suitable for employee housing. In essence, it was not a good fit," said Nordic resident Bruce Hall, at the March 20 meeting.

"As part of the discussions, the mayor stated, and I quote, 'we cannot let the critical nature of housing make us make poor decisions on housing ... we have to be smart about it.'"

Hall went on to ask if the same logic would be applied to other proposals, like the controversial employee housing project at 2077 Garibaldi Way in Nordic (which seeks to increase the density on the lot from six to 222 bed units).

"I can't presume to answer on behalf of the other members of council, but I can certainly say for myself that I attempt to be consistent," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

"But again, this is an ongoing process, an ongoing project, and we need to see a staff report about it and go from there."

So far two applications have been submitted from private developers for employee housing projects (the second being the 65-unit building in White Gold headed by Innovation Building Group/Vidorra Developments), and several more developers have expressed interest in projects of their own.

But while the Nordic project (submitted Nov. 21) has already come before council, the Advisory Design Panel and had a public open house, the White Gold project (submitted Jan. 10) is stuck on "application review" and was last updated on Jan. 18.

Every project is different, said Jan Jansen, general manager of resort experience, by way of explanation for the speed of the consideration of proposals.

"Projects move at different speeds and it's certainly not a priority of one over another," he said.

Some in the community have floated the idea of considering every employee-housing proposal from private developers at the same time to ensure the right one is chosen—an idea RMOW staff is considering.

"At this time staff is looking at the various expressions of interest, so to speak, that we've received in regards to other parcels of land, and are looking at how all of that information could be brought together in a timely fashion so that council could consider a number of proposals at the same time," Jansen said.

At this point, it's unclear when either of the already-submitted applications will come back to council for consideration.

"Staff is looking at a number of things ... do they bring these one by one, do they bring them all at the same time, how far along are we in processing the Garibaldi Way one versus the White Gold one?" Wilhelm-Morden said after the meeting.

"So there are a number of factors that come into play."

CAN ICBC HELP WITH UNPAID FINES?

The RMOW is looking to enlist ICBC to help collect unpaid bylaw fines.

At the March 20 council meeting, council endorsed a letter to attorney general David Eby and ICBC asking it to amend legislation to allow the insurance corporation to collect unpaid bylaw fines at the time of auto insurance or driver's licence renewal.

"A revenue sharing agreement with ICBC where the collected unpaid bylaw fines would be shared between ICBC and the municipalities would be beneficial to each organization," Wilhelm-Morden wrote in the letter.

"In addition, ICBC could charge an administration fee to debtors to recover any costs associated with collecting unpaid bylaw fines."

Council also approved a draft resolution on the issue to be sent to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) for consideration. This year's LMLGA conference is set for May 9 to 11 in Whistler.

Unpaid bylaw fines are a significant issue for municipalities province-wide (the City of Vancouver had close to $6 million in unpaid fines as of 2016), and collecting on them can be slow, expensive and labour intensive.

The idea came about as RMOW staff developed the Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw, which received first three readings on March 6 and was adopted at the March 20 meeting.

The bylaw will establish a local bylaw dispute adjudication system to replace the BC Provincial Court as the main venue for resolving bylaw disputes.

It will also allow the RMOW to mail tickets to offenders.

"It will allow us to enforce much more efficiently and more effectively on illegal nightly rentals,"said Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey at the March 6 council meeting.

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