Planning outside the village
One of the big reasons for Whistler’s success was the way the original village was built to a master plan. That plan was followed, more or less, through zoning and building limitations placed on individual parcels before they were sold.
With Village North, that has also been one of the problems: pre-zoned parcels have allowed development far quicker than anyone imagined. With zoning and building volumetrics in place, Whistler a safe bet financially, and a provincial government ready and willing to sell parcels as fast as it could, Village North has sprung up like a weed.
One of the ramifications of the orgy of building in Village North is a populace, both locals and visitors, who are tired of dodging dump trucks and listening to jack hammers year-round. By now most people have accepted, grudgingly, that there is little that can be done to stop or slow development in and around the village — but they can sure as hell fight any other development in the valley!
Some of that attitude was seen recently in council’s decision to reject the Bear Paw proposal south of Whistler Creek. The proposal was for 20 small cabins and a 12-room lodge on 5.7 acres in the woods west of Les Deux Gros restaurant. A corporate retreat of sorts, the development would have provided a type of accommodation not currently found in Whistler. The bed units were available through a previous deal with Whistler Mountain; what was needed was the zoning.
One of the reasons cited for turning the project down was the timing of the development, rather than the development itself. Whistler is going to have another 1,200 hotel rooms to fill next year — largely because Village North developed so quickly — so it doesn’t need Bear Paw, at least not at this time.
The Bear Paw development is the type of issue Whistler, both council and residents, is going to have to deal with again and again in the coming months and years, and we should think twice before we answer "no" every time just because we are tired of dodging dump trucks or because the 52,500 ceiling on bed units is sacred.
There must be limits to growth — no question, but Whistler is also still in need of a number of things. Despite all the planning that has gone into Whistler it’s only recently that a needs analysis of affordable housing was initiated. A transportation study is underway. Another elementary school site will be required. A hospital may be necessary. Housing for seniors has been discussed. Once some of those needs are determined it may be that some further development outside the village is required.
Saying "no" to any further development may be the popular answer right now, but at some point Whistler is going to have to give careful consideration to development beyond the current ceiling in order to meet some of the community’s needs.