I am writing this letter to air my concerns over the municipalitys plan of developing Crown land that lies between Alpine (North) and Emerald sub-divisions. It may serve as a warning for the rest of the valleys subdivisions.
The general area between the two subdivisions has been under pressure before from various real estate-related interests, only to be thwarted by residents. Whistler residents and tourists appreciate this area because it is readily accessible and ideal for walking their dogs, hiking, and mountain biking.
It appears that another assault is in the works under Whistlers Five Futures campaign. This campaign employs a kind of Trojan horse-like strategy where the prize horse consists of several thousand employee housing units marketed as part of the "sustainable development" plan for Whistler. This kind of development is promoted as socially responsible and unavoidable to prepare for 2010 and beyond.
I am not advocating a not-in-my-backyard argument. I am urging that Whistlerites should question the municipalitys assumptions on which all these additional bed unit requirements were calculated. This is crucial because other forms of development will be rationalized with support from a municipal sustainability plan that is loosely defined.
Possibly, the municipality might be cavalier with its assumptions because of a windfall gain of "cheap" Crown land made available by the provincial government. Since, the negative optics of development can be assuaged through the sustainable development plan, the municipality is drawn to residential infill because Crown land makes it cost effective. We have all heard this story before where the environment loses out to the economic argument.
If most Whistlerites associate the environment as the most desirable element in the sustainable part of sustainable development, then they should be wary that development will not stop at Crown land limits. Private developers stand ready to take their cue from the municipality and will increase the pressure for more urbanization. Furthermore, Whistlerites should recall that all this was set into motion by a "vision" formulated by a mere 800 respondents in the Whistlers Five Futures initiative. Clearly, insufficient consensus to make permanent changes to the valley's environment.
Unquestioned, the municipal plan can only mean sustained development at the expense of natural habitat, but every five years or so the Trojan horse will receive a makeover for another subdivision in the valley.
Kudos to the RMOW, council and Mike Vance and his team to post all the comments that were gathered during the Community Sustainability Plan public input phase (www.whistlerfuture.com). Every word, no editing (and no spelling korrections!). The future is changed by those who show up and the 79 pages of comments show a cross section of a caring community that really want to get the future right. Way to go.
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