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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A healthy and diverse economy

The continued application of the growth management strategy, together with the municipality's inability to designate additional sites for heavy industry and business parks (an OCP directive) is making the resort community vulnerable. Whistler for the most part is a single industry town where secondary industry such as construction, government, sales and service are all dependent on the number of visitors that the resort attracts. In view of the less optimistic economic forecasts and increased competition in the resort market, Whistler must look to alternative industry.

The CDP recognizes this vulnerability and identifies a key goal: ".to expand and diversify the local economy by continuing to increase visitation to the resort and by allowing other kinds of economic activity that is compatible with the resort." In particular the CDP recognizes the importance of new computer and communications technology to enable more people to live and work in Whistler, adding new sources of employment and income.

These policies have not been addressed, as there has been little local government support for locally-based businesses; nonetheless there have been several successful high tech, professional services and cottage industries.

Although there may be an argument not to encourage new business as it competes for valuable employees and housing, it should be acknowledged that the bulk of these new positions are higher paying and are able to off-set the lower paying and seasonal service jobs. Diversification will ensure a healthier resort community.

The long range land use policies of the Resort Municipality have more than past their expiration date.

It is clear that the municipality needs to go back to the community and RR1 landowners as soon as possible to determine how we can establish future land use policies that can implement Whistler's vision. This in no part means that the municipality should open the gates for development, but rather initiate dialogue and effectively plan for the next 10-25 years.

The municipality needs to identify sites that could be developed without being a detriment to the environment, while also providing development that would ensure the social and economic success of the resort community. The municipality must also wholly embrace progressive and innovative community outreach programs to ensure a good representation of the community. The prospect of undertaking such an endeavour is overwhelming, and long overdue. But perhaps in 25 years Whistler will be known internationally not only as a successful destination resort but also a diverse and healthy community.

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