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"In retrospect we probably could have handled it in a better way that would have resulted in less public angst," said Councillor Nick Davies. "But we try and do what we think is right at the time and unfortunately in this case the community, or at least some aspects of the community, are upset with us."
And though the details of that option still arent totally clear in that Squamish is now looking for more than $8 million from VANOC, the deal is still on the table. And it is municipal staffs recommendation that council accept this deal.
Councils decision, however, has become even more muddied after a public open house on Saturday.
Unlike most public open houses in Whistler, the meeting drew upwards of 280 community members to the Spruce Grove Field House over the course of five hours.
Councillor Marianne Wade was at the community meeting, the first of which has been held on the arena, and like other councillors who attended, she discovered a community eager to be engaged, to offer feedback and still wondering about all of Whistlers options.
From Wades perspective, and her conversations at the meeting, there was a 50/50 split in the room, with half concerned about funding the long term operating costs of a large arena in the village and the other half worried about the opportunity cost of turning down $20 million and the potential to build a "lasting legacy" in the village.
"I feel that the community is still searching for those answers," she said this week. "I think it puts council in an interesting position about how to move forward."
She also talked about a possible extension on the decision.
"I dont think its a bad idea," she said.
Councillor Gordon McKeever agreed that Sept. 30 is just not enough time, especially after the outpouring of interest at the open house.
"I think it behooves us to fortify the community engagement with further outreach but I think that (the open house has) given us a really good taste of the priorities that are out there and its also given some viable alternatives," he said. "This just reinforces the horsepower thats in the community."
One of those alternatives which has recently come to the table is a proposal by a local business owner, Norbert Doebelin, which would see an arena in the village on Lot 1/Lot 9. His model, unlike the models proposed by municipal staff, is not a stand-alone arena. Instead it incorporates an arena as one of a number of public buildings housing educational and cultural facilities. A culinary school, a satellite campus for a post secondary institution, and space for artists, artisans, dance schools and sports clubs are all part of Doeblins concept.
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