March 09, 2001 Features & Images » Feature Story

A time to plan 

Whistler's official community plan and comprehensive development plan were designed to serve the town in the 1990s, but do they meet present and future needs?

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In reviewing council's guiding document, Vision 2002, the document sets the long term goal for: " A strong healthy community where growth and development are managed and controlled, where the needs of its residents are met, where community life and individual well being are foster where the diversity of people is celebrated and where social interaction, recreation, culture and health services and life long learning are accessible to all ." Vision 2002 tells us what we are, what we want to be and our priorities, but it does not attempt to challenge the appropriateness of the current growth management strategy. Furthermore the OCP and CDP have not kept pace with the Vision 2002 document, or other recent initiatives including the Environmental Strategy, the Transportation Advisory Group study and the Province's Local Government Act.

In the short term the OCP and CDP moratorium on uncommitted development ensured that many community and resort amenities would be realized, including golf courses, a campground, affordable housing, a tennis resort, and public parks. The goal was to have a vibrant tourism economy supported by a stable community.

The continued reliance on the policy directions of the OCP, however, has meant the municipal decision making function has not kept pace with a rapidly changing resort and community. It has also meant that local residents and businesses have made decisions which may not be in keeping with the municipality's vision. The long term application of this short term policy approach is threatening the success of the resort as well as the well being of the community. The cracks that are forming concern the use of our valley's valuable land resources, the ability to be a liveable community and the security of a healthy and diversified economy.

Appropriate use of the limited land resources

The growth moratorium and the extensive development review of new construction has been effective in preserving valuable natural amenities and providing orderly growth. The bigger issue with the lack of current long range planning is whether Whistler will have the land resources in which to provide all the needed facilities, given most of the potential sites are privately owned and/or environmentally sensitive.

In referring to the municipality's five year financial plan, sites are needed outside the village to accommodate the following: affordable housing, a third elementary school, animal control, cemetery expansion, municipal golf course, and the Olympic venues. The OCP discusses the need for additional land for affordable housing, heavy industrial sites, a high quality business park, a northern gas station, community facilities, churches, private education facilities, a transportation centre and day skier satellite parking. These needs are in addition to allocations to establish and maintain a protected area network, as identified in the draft Environmental Strategy. The municipality needs to determine if developable lands from Function Junction to Emerald Estates can support any amount of new development, even if there are clear community and resort benefits. Lands that are disturbed or offer infill or redevelopment opportunity should be highlighted and planned, not ignored.

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