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CSP Volume I adopted

‘It’s already proved itself to be a powerful tool’

"Where’s the champagne?" asked Councillor Gordon McKeever, just before council officially adopted Volume I of the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan on Monday night.

There was no champagne and considerably less fanfare as the CSP was adopted into policy Monday, compared to its hyped up launch nearly three years ago. Still, the kudos for staff, council and the community abounded.

Despite missing three of their members, council adopted Volume I of the CSP, now called Whistler 2020 – Moving to a Sustainable Future .

McKeever called it a signature achievement for this term in council and he didn’t mince words for the naysayers who have levelled criticism throughout the lengthy and over-budget CSP process, which, despite its flaws, has become a groundbreaking plan garnering national and international attention.

"There’s been some criticism all throughout the process," he said. "To put it bluntly, I’d like to recommend to those people to get over it."

Volume I is a 42-page document describing all that Whistler aspires to be in 2020, explained Mike Vance, general manager of community initiatives, in his presentation to council. It is the resort’s long-term, overarching, community-wide plan that is guided by Whistler’s values and sustainability principles.

At its heart lies The Natural Step, the sustainability blueprint through which decisions can be made, based on the most sustainable path.

Among other things, Volume I describes Whistler as a strong, healthy and sustainable community which values its natural environment, its guests, the people who live and work here and a strong tourism economy.

It also talks about Whistler’s priorities in terms of enriching community life, enhancing the resort experience, protecting the environment, ensuring economic viability and partnering for success.

How Whistler will realize its vision will be described in Volume II of the CSP document, which is still ongoing. That document will outline the various strategies and actions to achieve the goals and is scheduled for completion in 2005.

The adoption of Whistler 2020 on Monday was followed with a practical application of how the new policy will be used at municipal hall. The former Grants in Aid program, whereby the municipality gives funding to community groups, has been changed to reflect the new plan. The program has been renamed the Community Enrichment Program and now applicants must show how their request for funding furthers Whistler’s commitment towards a sustainable future in the resort.

Though Monday’s adoption of Volume I marked a milestone in this process, council members are under no illusions; there is still a lot more work to come.

"We’re just starting the implementation," said Councillor Marianne Wade. "Volume II is going to require a lot of work."

Councillor Caroline Lamont, who was not at the meeting but had prepared a statement read by McKeever, also talked about the work still to come. Volume II, Lamont wrote, needs to have a monitoring system in place. And it will undoubtedly need more help from the community.

"They need to be engaged and they need to be heard," she wrote.

The work is already well underway.

More than 100 community members are involved in developing 16 different strategies for Volume II. They have been divided into task forces and have recommended high priority actions for 2005. The task forces will reconvene in January to complete the long-term strategies.

Though not yet complete, council has already made decisions based on the CSP process, which proves the value of the document, according to Councillor Ken Melamed.

"It’s already proved itself to be a powerful tool," he said.

Part of the CSP process, he explained, involved the community choosing between five different futures for Whistler. Among the choices was a future with a separate residential community 17 kilometres south of the village in the Callaghan Valley. Another future was to allow more market housing beyond the long established development cap in the resort.

The majority of the community chose instead to keep the cap on development, except for employee housing projects, and rejected the growth node in the Callaghan. Any future development, the community said, should go within the existing built area between Function Junction and Emerald Estates.

Melamed said the CSP proved its worth by testing the community’s commitment to keeping a reduced ecological footprint. He also said the CSP will be very useful in moving forward the sustainability agenda with Whistler’s 2010 Olympic partners.

"I think this sets a very powerful precedent," he said, as Whistler 2020 was adopted. "It’s starting to have ripple effects across the country and farther afield."

No one is more aware of that rippling effect than Mayor Hugh O’Reilly. More and more communities are starting to take notice of the work being done in Whistler. O’Reilly said he has had the opportunity to travel across the country to tell Whistler’s story on the CSP and The Natural Step.

"It’s like learning a new language," he said, adding that Whistlerites, particularly municipal staff, are extremely well versed in the sustainability language.

This is still the early days, he added. They’re immature and learning as they move along. But in 15 years, he said, measuring decisions through The Natural Step and Whistler 2020 will just be part of the normal course of business.

Volume I can be read online at in the reading room.