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November window for input on Whistler's future

A list of things to do between now and the start of the ski season: • tune skis/board • get in shape • stock up for the Christmas frenzy • determine Whistler’s future There’s not much time left to get ready for the ski s

A list of things to do between now and the start of the ski season:

• tune skis/board

• get in shape

• stock up for the Christmas frenzy

• determine Whistler’s future

There’s not much time left to get ready for the ski season, and there’s not much time for input on Whistler’s Comprehensive Sustainability Plan – three weeks, from this past Monday, for the people of Whistler to voice their opinions on the five scenarios that have taken a year to develop.

Without going into all the tortured details of the CSP, also known as Whistler. It’s Our Future , you may recall that the exercise began in January of 2002. The last most people heard of it was about a year ago when public workshops were held. Early this year the present council identified the CSP as one of its top priorities for 2003. Now, finally, the second phase of the process has gone public. Workbooks became available this week and a workshop will be held on Saturday, Nov. 15. All public input is to be received by Nov. 24.

After that, the third phase of the CSP process will see municipal staff crunch the numbers and sift through the input by February, when it will be available for public review. Council then has set June as the date to adopt the finalized CSP.

The importance of this November window for input on the CSP is only truly understood when another schedule is examined – that of the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. By next fall the OCOG will have done all the listening it has time for and will be working overtime to get facilities completed for 2009, when all the tracks and courses to be used for the 2010 Games must be tested with World Cup events.

The OCOG’s deadlines are firm, and its mandate clear. As outlined in the IOC evaluation commission’s report last April, OCOG will be responsible for all costs associated with the Games and it will have a budget of more than $1 billion US. Part of that budget will go toward building Olympic facilities in Whistler, the most significant – in terms of the CSP – being the athletes village. Where the athletes village goes is important because that may be where future resident housing goes.

If there’s any doubt as to how large a force the OCOG will become it became evident in the evaluation commission’s report: "During the visit (to Vancouver) it was clarified that public sector funding for capital works will flow through OCOG accounts and its distribution will be managed by OCOG… Design and construction of the venues are to be managed by the OCOG Design and Construction Department… As explained to the Commission, the responsibility for re-allocation or increases in funding will rest with the OCOG, which will also be the liaison with government officials regarding adjustments or changes to governmental funding needs."

The report clarifies the OCOG’s responsibilities from the IOC’s perspective. From the perspective of taxpayers across B.C. and Canada – the people paying for the Olympic facilities – the OCOG’s mandate is even simpler: put on a great Games and don’t go over budget.

With its responsibilities, duties and timetable clearly defined, OCOG is going to operate like a runaway freight train once it gets going. It’s going to have to.

And if, as has been suggested by some, B.C. has a shortage of skilled construction personnel to build all the Olympic and Olympic-related projects, like the Sea to Sky Highway upgrade, the RAV transit line and the Vancouver convention centre, OCOG will be under even greater pressure to get things done on time.

All of which makes our current window for input into the CSP so crucial. Whatever direction Whistler decides it wants to go in, there will be no turning back, no time for hedging bets or revisions.

Fundamental questions to be answered in the CSP: Should more development be allowed? Do we need more resident housing? If so, where – on the Whistler Golf Course, in the Callaghan, within the existing developed boundaries of Whistler? What are we prepared to give up to obtain that housing? Are there other ways to attack the affordability issue? Do we need to diversify the local economy?

You only have until Nov. 24 to be heard.