On Sept. 20 Intrawest’s Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy was on Whistler council’s agenda for third reading. It was pulled and re-scheduled to Oct. 4.
On Oct. 4 the Whistler South CDS was pulled and re-scheduled to the Oct. 18 meeting. On Oct. 18, an hour after the council meeting was called to order under acting mayor Kristi Wells, Mayor Hugh O’Reilly appeared to announce the Whistler South CDS was again pulled from the agenda. It is now scheduled to come up for third reading, "for certain," at council’s Nov. 1 meeting.
The magnitude of the Whistler South CDS can not be overstated. It represents the largest remaining collection of development rights in Whistler, approximately 1,700 bed units in three individual developments: the Spring Creek and Peaks subdivisions and the commercial area at Whistler Creek.
Perhaps more importantly, the Whistler South CDS includes a number of so-called "community amenities" that Whistler is desperate for, the most notable (and Whistler’s most urgent need) being a site for a second elementary school.
The Whistler South CDS was the subject of two information sessions over the summer, a public hearing in September and numerous media reports over the last several months. Anyone with a passing interest in the plan has had ample opportunity to review the CDS. In general people seem to like most of the plan, although virtually everyone who has looked at it has some concerns. That’s only natural with a project so massive and significant for all of Whistler. And perhaps that’s the problem right now: the whole thing has been bundled — wrongly — in one giant take-it-or-leave-it package.
Officially, the word from the mayor last week was the Whistler South CDS was again pulled from council’s agenda because of "technical details" which still have to be worked out. "There are some issues between ourselves and Intrawest," O’Reilly said.
The rumour surrounding the hold up is that the municipality is waiting for the Emerald Forest deal, involving Intrawest, Decigon and the municipality, to be signed before the Whistler South CDS goes to third reading. That’s strictly a rumour, but the very fact that the Whistler South CDS has been on council’s agenda for more than a month — at a time when everyone is desperate to get moving on a second elementary school — and is still sitting there with little explanation for why it is stalled leads to rumour and speculation.
This council has taken on some large and difficult issues in its three year term, in the face of a changing Whistler landscape. One of the most significant changes over the last few years has been the emergence of Intrawest as the dominant economic force in town. No previous council has been in a position where one company controls most of the remaining development and has the means to provide so many community facilities.
But this council has also spent a great deal of time discussing some of these issues in "workshops" — sessions that may not be closed to the public but because there is little or no public notice of the meetings they are in effect in camera.
The only issues council should be discussing in camera are personnel and legal matters and land acquisitions. The Whistler South CDS is a zoning issue.
Against this background it’s little wonder speculation and rumour surround the Whistler South CDS. It’s time to bring all the "technical details" out in the open and then put the project to a vote.
And Whistler will be better served if the time and location of future workshops are publicized.