Busy year ahead for council 

Mayor hopes to deliver Volume II of the CSP, employee housing and financial tools in 2005

Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said he is optimistic about the year ahead and has laid out a number of key tasks for council to complete by the end of their term in office this November.

Not the least of those tasks is to wrap up the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan, now called Whistler 2020, which is a full-scale planning document guiding the resort’s future for the next 15 years.

"I tend to think that moving ahead with Whistler 2020 is bigger (than the other tasks) because it really is co-ordinating the energies of all the community players," he said this week.

He explained that other significant issues facing the resort, such as resident affordability, employee housing and securing the long-awaited financial tools from the provincial government, would flow out of Whistler 2020.

"Council has always been committed to affordability (and providing) housing but I think the plan is ultimately even more important because those issues are embedded within the bigger (Whistler 2020) plan."

At the end of last year, council adopted Volume I of Whistler 2020 and officially partnered with a dozen community groups who all recognize the objectives in the document and pledged to work together in achieving its goals.

Volume II, which will outline the strategies and action plans to achieve the goals in the first volume, should be finalized and adopted within the first half of 2005.

But that doesn’t mean council won’t be working on delivering housing and financial tools until Whistler 2020 is complete. O’Reilly said council is considering three large rezoning applications that have good potential to deliver a sizable chunk of employee housing. These do not include the employee housing opportunities that will come out of the athletes village after 2010.

"These are ones that could actually see some deliverables in the very near future and no, they’re not necessarily massive but they’re significant," he said. "They’re not one and two (homes). There are some real numbers there."

He was reticent to go into too much detail about the three proposals other than to say that one proposal involves the long talked about land known as Cheakamus North, in between Spring Creek and Millar’s Pond.

"That application is still moving ahead," he said. "There’s some real incentive there. We think that creating that connector between those two subdivisions has some real value because it makes the transit system so much more viable, and that’s another one of our key initiatives.

"I know that there’s active work being done on that (application). It’s a tough site (because of the terrain)… It hasn’t been successful to date because it is tough (but) it’s putting the right numbers together and making it work."

Council is focused on delivering housing to meet the needs of middle management workers in the community as well as seniors housing. O’Reilly admitted employee housing for those two segments of the community have not been addressed as well as council would have liked over the past two years.

Meanwhile, the mayor said council would be actively lobbying the province to deliver the long-promised financial tools to the resort, which were negotiated during the Olympic bid process. The financial tools will effectively give Whistler power to collect more money for the resort.

"We’re going to pick up the pace in the New Year and really try and spend some time with Victoria and try and get this thing done," he said. "This council is going to want to see it done before our elections, otherwise it’d be an annoyance for us to have gone three years and not be able to deliver on something that was promised many years ago during the bid process. So I think we can probably bear some weight on the province and say ‘let’s get this done.’"

Whistler has developed an idea for a financial tool, which has support among other resort communities said O’Reilly, because it allows communities like Whistler to access the tools as they become more successful.

He would not explain Whistler’s idea in detail but said he thinks it’s a reasonable proposal for Victoria to consider.

"I understand the province has to go through the election process (this spring), but I feel confident that once the elections are over, that it’s time to settle this issue once and for all."

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