No university for Whistler 

Council stops Whistler International Campus before rezoning process begins

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD/WWW.DAVID BUZZARD.COM - Last-Minute Appeal Dr. Doug Player addresses the Whistler Council. 'It's an opportunity that will never come again,' he said.
  • Photo BY David Buzzard/www.david
  • Last-Minute Appeal Dr. Doug Player addresses the Whistler Council. 'It's an opportunity that will never come again,' he said.

The decision was touted to be the most difficult and controversial of council's term but, in the end, quashing the plans for a freestanding university turned out to be relatively straightforward.

Delivered with confidence at Tuesday's meeting, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden did not mince her words as she summarily dismissed the plans for one of the biggest development projects in Whistler's history — more than twice the size of the athletes' village, bigger even than Village North.

"This is not a proposal to build a university," she stated. "This is a proposal to build a large commercial development..."

The plans for the Whistler International Campus (WIC) called for more than one million square feet of built space, not including below ground parking and student services spaces, in 27 different buildings.

"First and foremost this is quite simply a bunch of buildings the owner will be leasing out. Full stop," she added.

Seeing no community benefits, but rather "substantial risk" the mayor put an end to 20-months of speculation about the fate of WIC and the possibility that council, which said it was "open for business" when it took office, could approve a ground-breaking concept on one of the most controversial pieces of Whistler property.

Some of the roughly 60 audience members were visibly agitated as the mayor spoke, the last of all seven members of council to speak out against the project and voice their support of municipal staff's recommendation not to move it forward through the rezoning process.

Walking out of the meeting Dr. Doug Player, the local face of the project, said he was saddened and disappointed with council's decision.

"It's an opportunity that will never come again," he said, shaking his head. "It's an opportunity for economic diversification. It's an opportunity to provide for kids in the community. It's an opportunity certainly for the businesses."

As for the mayor's assertion that this was just a development ploy, Player said:

"I would never bring just a commercial venture here. This was all about education."

And yet, education appeared to be the least of council concerns about this project as each separately addressed their reasons for rejecting WIC.

While it may have been a unanimous vote, in keeping with this council's fashion, each councillor offered a unique point of view, adding a little insight into what was behind each individual decision.

Council's Rationale

One of the chief concerns raised at the table was the request for 2,924 bed units over and above Whistler's growth cap to make the project viable. Bed units are Whistler's unique tool of measuring growth — each single-family home is the equivalent of six bed units.

Under the new Official Community Plan (OCP), adopted earlier this year, any development proposal that proposes to raise the bed unit limit: "should not be favourably considered unless it is a strategic opportunity that demonstrates extraordinary benefits to the resort community and will substantially strengthen Whistler's progress towards achieving its vision."



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