blueberry gate 

Some residents of Blueberry Hill and Whistler Cay felt betrayed by councillors Monday when a bylaw which would have entrenched in the Official Community Plan the current restrictions on the Blueberry Gate was defeated. "Is this a democracy or an autocracy?" one outraged resident demanded. "What is the purpose of a public hearing?" another asked, noting that at the evening’s public hearing no one spoke against the bylaw. The bylaw, proposed by the previous council, would have written into the Official Community Plan that the Blueberry Gate be opened only for transit vehicles, emergency vehicles and municipal works vehicles. Those limitations are still in effect, they are just not written into the OCP. Limiting the gate opening to transit, emergency and public works vehicles was in fact a compromise to begin with. Municipal staff had recommended to the previous council last fall that the gate be opened to all traffic on a trial basis. Councillors Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, Ted Milner and Stephanie Sloan voted against the proposed bylaw Monday, while Ken Melamed and Kristie Wells voted in favour of it. Councillor Dave Kirk was absent. Council doesn’t usually bring a bylaw forward for third reading on the same evening as the public hearing for the bylaw, unless there is no public opposition to the bylaw. That was the case Monday, but the opposition came from half of council. "I appreciate the concern for protection of the neighbourhoods," Wilhelm-Morden said, "but I believe the existing OCP adequately protects the neighbourhoods. I see this OCP amendment as saying ‘we don’t trust you.’ "I believe there is enough protection and I’m not happy with the whole perception created by this OCP amendment." The Blueberry and Whistler Cay residents, along with their lawyer, Mark Sager, filed out of the meeting following the vote but regrouped outside and later returned to the meeting. At the question period following the meeting the accusations started to fly. One resident questioned why council members would vote against the OCP amendment when there was no public opposition to it. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly replied that it was a different council from the one that proposed the amendment. Another resident questioned whether Sloan knew what she was voting for. "I don’t support opening the gate, but I don’t support the OCP amendment either," Sloan replied. "I didn’t vote to open the gate." But another resident felt that’s exactly what council did. "Whistler’s being run by an autocracy," one resident charged. "You’re devaluing our property and you don’t even send us a letter." Blueberry resident Peter Webb, injecting a note of civility at the end, said he respected councillors right to make decisions they feel are in the best interest of the community, but as a taxpayer he felt like he’d wasted a lot of time trying to bring some finality to the gate issue. Sager asked if the motion might be brought back when the full council was present. O’Reilly said he would consider the request.

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