So what is it? Too big or too small? To cap or not to cap? Will Whistler's grand experiment to grow only so big and no bigger get a real-world test or will it just become another quaint, Quixotic idea relegated to the dustbin of history?
There were three 800 pound gorillas in the room last Tuesday when Council held its last public hearing on the proposed changes to the Official Community Plan. OK, actually there were only two gorillas. The third sent notice through its lawyers.
The easiest of the gorillas to deal with is the one that's, well, impossible to deal with: First Nations. Our First Nations neighbours aren't happy with the OCP. I'm not sure what could, short of seeing everyone who is not status thank them for the use of their land on their way down valley, be included in the document that would make them happy. But local government has passed this over to the place where jurisdiction lies, provincial and federal levels. I feel certain it is an issue that will not be resolved in our lifetimes.
The other two gorillas both have issues with the same thing, just from different points of view. That would be Whistler's bed unit cap.
The bed unit cap — our own metric to define the town's limits to growth — has, over the years, taken on mythic status. If one were cynical, one might say that's because it is, largely, a myth.
It was borne out of an attempt to define the carrying capacity of this mountain pass we're squatting on, that is to say, the comfortable number of bed units — which are even harder to express in terms of buildings or people — that would keep this place from becoming too big, just another Vancouver exurb.
Originally set in 1990 at just under 50,000, a chart of its growth, conveniently located in the draft OCP, looks like the marks one might find on a door frame, showing the growth of a child who experienced an unexpected spurt just before the Olympics. It currently stands at 61 thousand and change, with just over 8,000 units left to build.
And therein lies the mythic nature of the cap. We've never reached it. It's been like a mirage in the desert, a reason to move forward but never actually within our grasp. Since we've never reached it, we can easily pay homage to it like a deity. It's the ultimate "something" we'll think about tomorrow, Scarlett.
But tomorrow is, almost literally, tomorrow. And today, there are people who want to discuss the capiness of that cap. Is it as strong and impregnable as a motorcycle helmet or as open and breezy as a golf visor?
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