On December 23, while most people were either stranded in crowded airports or were buying those last-minute gifts, Whistler's council called an impromptu Olympic meeting.
It wasn't advertised in the media. Chances are most people were not reading the municipal website two days before Christmas. Not surprising, only two members of the public attended, along with the press and the Chamber of Commerce president.
The purpose of the meeting was to give third reading to the TCUP bylaw. TCUP (pronounced tea cups) is VANOC's newest Olympics acronym and stands for "Temporary Commercial Use Permits."
THis time around, Whistler's newly elected council decided to play hardball with VANOC. Just one day prior, VANOC announced that it was considering cutting the medal ceremonies from the Celebration Plaza in Whistler, despite cutting four acres of old-growth forest to house the plaza. Whistler's original legacy was supposed to be a new hockey arena, but it appears that our legacy is likely to be an empty lot filled with tree stumps.
The final vote was 5 to 1. Mayor Ken Melamed casted the sole vote in favour of the TCUPs. Those who attended the Torino Winter Olympics in 2006, noted how many of the small, family-owned shops had been replaced by large IOC tents during the Games, selling tacky souvenirs, t-shirts and food.
The TCUP bylaw would enable VANOC to set up temporary structures (i.e. tents), including stores and food-outlets at five spots in Whistler: the Celebration Plaza, Franz's Trail (alpine venue), the athletes' village, the sliding centre venue and at the Telus Conference Centre.
In her column, ex-councillor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, writes " ... pretty much anything goes, anywhere in town, despite the representations made at various meetings and in the press." www.whistlerquestion.com/article/20081231/WHISTLER14/312319982/1028
Most Whistler retailers have been paying ridiculously high rents and taxes in the lead up to 2010, with the promise of an Olympic windfall. It's becoming clear however, that retailers have been used as pawns by VANOC to promote their Olympic SWAG.
Last summer, there were also speculations that VANOC was planning to open a "super store" on the Whistler Golf Course driving range. At the time, council reassured residents that this would never happen. The new TCUP bylaw could now make this a reality.
There are also other concerns. The accommodation portion of TCUPs could result in local workers getting evicted from their rental homes, despite protections built into the bylaw.
The TCUP decision has been deferred to the Jan. 27 council meeting.
There's alot more to come on TCUPs. Stay tuned.
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