RMOW seeks resiliency with 2016 Corporate Plan 

Community forum on June 15 at Audain Art Museum

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Whether it was the weak Canadian dollar, massive early season snowfall, or the continued growth of tourism as a whole, outside forces conspired to help make 2015 one of Whistler's best.

Now, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is looking to the future.

"There are lots of external influences that are helping us... (but) at the same time, we're feeling that a lot of the work that we started back in 2012 with the Economic Partnership Initiative (EPI) and some of the other plans and strategies are starting to come to fruition," said chief administrative officer (CAO) Mike Furey, in a phone interview before June 7's council meeting.

"We're feeling really good that we're in a great place in the community and in the resort, and looking forward to this summer."

At the council meeting, Furey presented the RMOW's 2016 Corporate Plan and 2015 Annual Report — a look back at the past while simultaneously laying the groundwork for the coming months.

The plan is based on the direction set by council at the start of their term in 2014 with updated priorities for 2016, including: A continued focus on prudent fiscal management and the use of the corporate plan as a strategic road map; transportation planning; community well-being and affordability; environmental initiatives; accommodation mix for visitors and residents; maintaining focus on visitation and resort growth and partnership within the resort, region and beyond.

"Overall, council's direction in relation to the Corporate Plan was to stay the course, and to move forward with the implementation of some of the major projects like the Gateway Loop and the Wayfinding and the Cultural Connector... you're going to be seeing changes in the community in the next weeks and months," Furey said.

A community forum is scheduled for Wednesday, June 15, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Audain Art Museum. Results from the community life survey will be presented, as well as the most current community monitoring results. Staff will be on hand to answer questions and collect feedback.

Childcare, refreshments and door prizes will be provided.

After some short presentations, attendees will have a chance to engage council and staff in one-on-one conversations — topics on the table include the tourism economy, wildfire protection, water and energy conservation, transportation and housing.

"I really encourage people to go online and read it — both the corporate plan and the annual report — because the annual report just gives a nice summary of what we did in 2015, and then of course the corporate plan is our plan, literally, for 2016," Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said after the council meeting.

The plan can be found online at www.whistler.ca/corporateplan.

Both staff and council know the outside forces can't stay favourable forever, and the RMOW is looking at how best to carry its current momentum into the future.

"That's something that the EPI is looking at and that report will come out in July with some recommendations and strategies to do exactly that," the mayor said.

The only certainty is that there will be challenges to face — in providing housing, battling climate change and elsewhere.

"I would place transportation and traffic management as one of the top three challenges that we have before us in the next five to 10 years," Furey said, noting that reducing traffic is also an opportunity to reduce GHG emissions in the resort.

Another big challenge comes in preparing the community for the very real threat of wildfires.

"Certainly we have been doing work on that, but we realize with longer, hotter, drier summers and the close call we had last summer that we need to take some additional steps," Furey said.

The RMOW has retained the services of renowned forester and biologist Bruce Blackwell to help prepare the community.

"He's doing his research and preparing an analysis around understanding where the high-risk fuel areas are... and creating some modelling around that," Furey said.

The research will help the RMOW get the best bang for its buck in terms of preparing for wildfire, he said.

Whether physically, environmentally or economically, the focus in the coming years will likely be on resiliency.

"There are some things that we can't control, obviously, but there are things that we can," Furey said.

"And we're trying to use all the tools that we have, working with our partners, to stay as prosperous and resilient as possible."



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