BCBC visioning 

By Loreth Beswetherick Whether the library will share a building with the museum is still an open question but what does seem likely is that the new facility will be constructed on Lot 21, the library’s present location. Other commercial uses could be incorporated into the new development and the municipality may decide to dig underground to create parking. Nothing has been firmed up yet but the options for the library are just part of a much larger long-term municipal visioning process that has been underway for well over a year now. Councillor Kristi Wells said the RMOW engaged the British Columbia. Building Corporation about a year and a half ago to do some brainstorming on how to use the limited, and ever more valuable, municipal land in the village area. BCBC was asked to look at what major new facilities Whistler may need in the future and where they could conceivably be located. All municipal land in the village was on the table and facilities identified included things like a hospital, an entertainment centre, arts space or theatre, transportation hub, new fire hall, dog pound, impound yard, covered market, chamber of commerce building, welcome or information centre as well as the new library and museum buildings. Things like the possibility of the 2010 Winter Olympics were also taken into account. Everything, said Wells, was on the table and the corporation was encouraged to think outside the box. Ideas like selling municipal hall and relocating those offices or burrowing under the driving range to create a transportation centre were just some of the concepts tossed around by BCBC which, said Wells, approached the exercise with a neutral and objective mind. "For example, they don’t have a vested interested in whether Lot 1 becomes an entertainment centre or not. They looked at it from strictly a land-use point of view. They didn’t have any biases and it was really nice to have such an objective opinion," she said. "Even staff sometimes has a hard time giving such a clearly objective opinion because they know the history." The result is six highly conceptual scenarios that were presented by BCBC to council about a month ago and in most of those scenarios, the current library location was favoured for a new, permanent library. It was traditionally thought a new library would be located on Lot 1 between the Whistler Health Care Centre and the Brew House. Wells, said however, the leaning for Lot 1 is now more toward an entertainment centre with a theatre and potentially an outdoor skating rink, but again, it is only a concept. "We looked at a covered winter market and some commercial space for Lot 1, because there is commercial zoning there, and we looked at more park space, but if we decide we want an arena-type complex down the road, there are maybe only two or three locations to actually put it because it would be so big." Wells said it was necessary to identify any large facilities, like a transportation centre, that Whistler may need in the future and plan accordingly. Putting a little library on one of the only large spaces that might be able to accommodate a future arena or transportation hub just wouldn’t make good planning sense. "We thought about every possibility," said Wells. "We said it would be great to have a transportation centre but it is a million dollar project. It is not budgeted for and it is not planned but it would be silly to go ahead and build something on the driving range, for example, when that would have been the beast location across the board." The same goes for a hospital facility. It is feasible the community may need one and there is no point in not trying to integrate a hospital facility in the scenarios. "The health centre and the health board have been battling with that and recognize we will probably need one," said Wells. "A hospital has so many more open-ended definitions now and those services could be quite catered, but it is the reality of knowing it is one of the big buildings we might eventually need." Wells said the six scenarios will not likely be made public and some of the ideas incorporated in them may never see the light of day. "Some of it might be 10 years away while some might be in the next two. But what the scenarios do is, as a community, we can go back to them and say, gee, we looked at that option and felt in the long-run it would have better potential for this instead of that." Wells said the primary goal at the moment is securing the library location without precluding a major future facility. "The library will be one of the first permanent decisions to come out of those scenarios and the current location is favoured, as opposed to Lot 1. "Obviously the new building will have a whole new configuration but the location works. It is central and has road access. People are used to it there and there are some other very positive things about putting it in that location." Wells said it is a council priority to see the library built, hopefully within the next two years, but at the same time there is a need to avoid a clash with fund-raising for Millennium Place. "We are very sensitive to the Maury Young Millennium Place. They are planning to break ground in the spring and they are still fund-raising. It is very difficult for a community to take on two big projects like that and they were first out of the gate," said Wells. "Obviously there is a real respect there, that being such an important community project. The overlap will be inevitable but we hope to eliminate it as much as possible." The library board has in the meantime completed its strategic plan, which will be presented at the next council meeting Monday, March 6. From there work will start on a timeline for construction. Wells said this long-term visioning exercise is a first for BCBC. "This is the first municipality they have done this with." The government corporation has resources generally not available to a municipality, including architects and financiers. "They are like a big development firm," said Wells. "It is a very good and efficient way for us to explore some options and we just don’t have the time to do that in-house." Wells said this is the kind of positive long-term planning the municipality should spend more time on. "It feels like we are really looking ahead and doing it in a balanced way. It is non-reactive and from my years on council, this is the kind of stuff we would be doing more of," she said. "We are at the point of development in Whistler where this is it. This is the last crack."

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