Once more with clarity 

Plans for Celebration Plaza to be explained to public at open house

click to enlarge THE PLAN Municipal planner Mike Kirkegaard shows off a model of the Lot 1/9 2010 celebration plaza at a public open house in October. The project will proceed, even without a public rink and iconic roof structure.
  • THE PLAN Municipal planner Mike Kirkegaard shows off a model of the Lot 1/9 2010 celebration plaza at a public open house in October. The project will proceed, even without a public rink and iconic roof structure.

There will be another public meeting to clarify what Whistler is committed to doing on Lots 1 and 9, and what it may do in the future — but construction of the Celebration Plaza will go ahead.

“I don’t want to create an opportunity to open up debate, because we have made that decision,” Councillor Tim Wake said Monday in proposing a meeting be called.

“But there may be an opportunity to clarify, communicate…”

What is happening on Lot 1/9, what may happen and how those plans have been interpreted or presented by others was a hot topic at Monday’s council meeting. A petition presented by the Whistler Watch group drew the ire of council members and the chair of the Lot 1/9 task force, Drew Meredith.

“To say I come here a little annoyed this evening is an understatement,” said Meredith, whose presentation to council followed a Whistler Watch presentation by Stephen Vogler.

Meredith called the petition and some of the stories being propagated about the development of Lot 1/9 “scandalous” and “fraudulent”.

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler supported the call for another public meeting but asked that the dialogue be “respectful”. He said the preamble in the Whistler Watch petition was not accurate. Specifically, Whistler is not building a “temporary” Celebration Plaza and will not be “removing all four acres of trees from Lot 1/9.”

Mayor Ken Melamed added that council debated even receiving the Whistler Watch petition, which was signed by more than 800 people, because it misrepresented the facts.

Vogler responded that one of the strengths of Whistler Watch is the number of youths involved. He conceded there were “some minor inaccuracies” in the preamble to the petition, but maintained “the sentiment is still valid.”

“It’s important to involve youth in the Whistler political process,” he added.

Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden agreed that another meeting is needed so that everyone is clear what is being built on Lot 1/9.

“There’s a lot of confusion about what we’re going to end up with. I think it’s worthwhile having another meeting to spell it out,” she said.

“We need the public behind us if we’re moving forward on this.”

What Whistler is committed to building was outlined in a March 17 report to council by Resort Parks Planning Manager Martin Pardoe. It includes pre-Olympic and post-Olympic development and a budget for each phase.

The first phase of development, which will be completed by October 2009, includes forest retention, site preparation, infrastructure and site servicing, a utility building, federal Live Sites recognition, performance infrastructure, amphitheatre seating, plaza and terracing and gravel surfacing. The budget is $11.2 million, with $5 million coming from the federal Live Sites program, $3 million from VANOC and $3.2 million from the 4 per cent hotel tax the municipality now receives.

The second phase, to be done after the Paralympics are over but by October 2010, includes legacy components, reforestation, lawn, children’s play features, water features, and soft and hard landscaping. The budget is $2.466 million, all of which will come from the additional 4 per cent hotel tax.

An outdoor skating rink, the “iconic pavilion” and additional buildings — including buildings constructed by other nations for the Olympics and left behind as part of a Neighbourhood of Nations — are not included in the budget and at present no money has been allocated for them. However, the March 17 report estimated the cost of the additional buildings, the pavilion and ice surface at $59.3 million. Funding sources and a completion date were not determined.

Council, municipal staff and task force members feel what is going to be built on Lot 1/9, at a cost of approximately $14 million, is still not well understood. The $14 million will provide a landscaped, relatively open park-like space that would be versatile but provide a less commercial, family-centred experience in the village. With that in place, additional features could be added in time as funding becomes available.

Melamed tried to emphasize the point during the public question period at the start of Monday’s meeting. In response to a suggestion that the plans for Lot 1/9 will cost nearly as much as the $60 million arena that was rejected the mayor said: “It’s not a $58 million project. It’s a $14 million project. It gives us a platform… for potential amenities to be added over time.”

Meredith called the Lot 1/9 plans “probably the most complicated project this community has dealt with.” He said the site was always supposed to be an economic generator for the village.

“This site is about legacies, it’s about the health of this community,” he said.

“It’s time to stop throwing rocks,” Meredith concluded. “It’s time to prepare for the largest event we’ll ever have.”

A date for the public information meeting has not been set.

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