Letters to the Editor for the week of June 28th, 2012 

Whistler U response

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I have been inundated with calls of support for WhistlerU, so I would like to clarify the situation.

WhistlerU submitted a letter to municipal hall on March 29, 2006 indicating it would pursue returning the Alpha Lands to the original zoning that included education. The land had been downzoned in 2001 as part of a blanket rezoning of all RS1 land in the community.

During the past six years we have held focus groups and met with every group that invited us to give details of our proposal. We listened and incorporated many of their suggestions. We met with the First Nations to listen to their educational needs. We also worked hard to gain partnerships that would bring two of B.C.'s finest institutions (UNBC and BCIT) to the WhistlerU campus. BCIT happens to have the longest waiting list of any post-secondary institution in B.C.

Meantime, the staff recommended that the Council hire a consultant to examine post-secondary education in Whistler. Rather than hire someone who truly understood B.C. education, they hired a statistician from Toronto who produced a report that suggested an institute approach to post-secondary. Interestingly, as this report was being written the staff sought a proposal from Capilano University and secretly negotiated a tentative MOU with Cap that would require the municipality to provide resources and space.

The Capilano University proposal was presented the same night as the consultant delivered his report to council. Clearly, the whole process was manipulated by staff.

Fortunately, the last election intervened. The MOU that staff negotiated was only made public at the last council meeting and we were informed it had not been signed.

On April 5, 2012 WhistlerU submitted a re-zoning package to the staff in accordance with standard practice. We presented to council's Committee of the Whole on April 17, 2012 and were well received, and told that council would deal with the proposal with dispatch because they were "open for business." We should not have felt so optimistic.

Staff produced yet another report for council, which was delivered last week, and which council unanimously endorsed. It calls for a nine-month community engagement process to discuss what post-secondary education should look like in Whistler. It also calls for the hiring of another consultant to act as project manager.

At the council meeting the mayor said we would be contacted by staff to tell us the disposition of our re-zoning package.

Needless to say, we were not contacted, so our architect had to call to ask. We were told we would receive an email explaining our re-zoning proposal was on indefinite hold. No email has yet been received. The whole process, and our treatment, suggests to us that our confidence in the new council changing the way staff in the planning department operate may be misplaced. We truly hope not.

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