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Whistler reaps benefits from land deal

Millions more in Crown land handed over to municipality

By Alison Taylor

First Nations aren’t the only winners when it comes to the legacy land deal.

Whistler, too, has closed the books on several outstanding issues with the provincial government by approving the Legacy Land Agreement Monday night.

“(First Nations) provided a catalyst for resolving a number of issues with the Crown,” explained Mayor Ken Melamed.

Second-term councillor Gord McKeever can appreciate how long some of those issues have been outstanding.

“It’s been a real satisfaction to watch that list shrink,” he said, as he offered his support and congratulations for the land agreement.

The land deal now paves the way for the boundary expansion, a deal that will see Whistler grow roughly 60 per cent, from 41,000 acres to close to 67,000 acres.

“It’s the last piece of the 2010 promise that we made to the community and that has taken a tremendous amount of effort to achieve,” said Mayor Ken Melamed.

With First Nations support of the expansion he expects to see the deal complete within the year.

More Crown land is also being transferred to municipal hands.

After more than a decade of negotiations the municipality will now own the day skier parking lots, with an estimated worth of $10 to $20 million. The current budget reveals municipal plans to resurface the lots prior to the 2010 Games at a cost of $4.3 million. Those plans could include pay parking to encourage alternate forms of transportation.

A second plot of Crown land in the Cheakamus, opposite Function Junction, has also been turned over to the municipality for a southern satellite parking lot. The idea is to provide a day skier and an employee park and ride system to reduce traffic through the valley.

A Crown site in the Callaghan Valley has been handed over free of charge for Whistler’s waste transfer site.

And the long-outstanding issue of the Fitzsimmons land slump above the village on Whistler Mountain has been resolved too. Whistler has agreed to pay for the construction of a sediment basin/debris station at an estimated cost of $4 million.

As he tallied up the benefits to the deal, Mayor Melamed was struck by how much has been resolved with the approval of the land agreement.

He said: “It’s actually a huge day.”