Resort guru Myles Rademan talked at Saturday’s town hall meeting of "the wisdom of holding hands." It’s a message he has been preaching for many years. At the end of the day, after all the letters to the editor, public hearings, self analysis, visioning exercises and everything else, how are we going to have to treat each other to maintain the social contract, so it doesn’t become a social cleavage?
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Rademan talked briefly about controlling growth in his home of Park City, Utah, which is booming — in part because the community will play host to the 2002 Winter Olympics.
There is really no way to stop growth, he said, because all the land in Park City is privately owned. And in the United States, there are constitutional rights associated with private property — such as the right to build on it. So what Park City is trying to do is limit the impact of development on private land through zoning, bylaws and other tools at the local government’s disposal.
I recalled the story of a public trail in Vail, similar to our Valley Trail, which meanders alongside a creek for several miles then abruptly ends, only to start up again another quarter-mile further down the creek. The quarter-mile interruption is courtesy of a Vail resident who doesn’t want the trail crossing his property and doesn’t want to sell any of his property to the town. The town of Vail doesn’t have the right to expropriate the land for public use.
I thought how civic-minded Canadians were in our laws and how clever Whistler was in establishing a limit to growth many years ago. (Whether you believe a cap on development will be maintained in Whistler or not, the concept of limiting growth is at least part of the local psyche).
Then came Monday’s council meeting.
It seems Whistler can control real estate development but as far as mining — including opening up a gravel pit — the community is powerless. Under provincial law, anyone who applies to open a gravel pit on private land has free reign. And that’s apparently what’s going to happen.
Thirty-five-thousand cubic metres of gravel will be removed every year for the next 10 years from a gaping hole in the earth just north of the Cougar Mountain Road. A heavy industrial zone will be established there, as rock crushing machinery will operate on a daily basis.
How clever provincial law makers are; how civic minded. They give the municipality the right to control what’s built on lands within their jurisdiction, but not the right to control what’s done with those lands.
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Back to the issue of limiting development in Whistler: Saturday’s town hall meeting was the first time in memory there was some willingness to discuss raising the ceiling on development. One table, with several participants under age 34, suggested the cap was a concern because they felt it limited their opportunities to live in Whistler.
As Rademan says, there is wisdom in holding hands and talking to each other.