Council hears concerns and kudos for First Nations centre 

Squamish Chief Bill Williams appealed to Whistler council on Tuesday night to support the development of a First Nations cultural centre in the heart of Whistler Village.

"What we are going to provide is the culture of Canada," he said, of the centre intended to showcase Canadian First Nations cultures.

Williams asked how many people have the chance to visit a cultural centre on the Northwest coast or taste traditional First Nations food.

Whistler’s centre will allow people to experience "a little of who we are and where we come from," he said.

The $13 million building, which will take on the form of a traditional Coast-Salish "Big House," will be built on the land opposite the Fairmont Chateau Whistler at the corner of Blackcomb Way and Lorimer Road.

Council heard from a handful of citizens this week after reconvening a public hearing that opened at the previous council meeting.

The two-week extension was granted to accommodate condo owners along Blackcomb Way, whose property is opposite the five acre forested land slated for the development.

While council received about 10 letters from residents since the last council meeting, only one came forward to speak at the public hearing.

"We’re very much in favour of the development of this cultural centre although like everyone else, we’d like it somewhere else," said Paul Tutsch, chairman of The Gables strata council.

Although supportive of the concept, Tutsch outlined his concerns to council. Some of these concerns were also reflected in the letters to council.

Tutsch’s first point dealt with the amount of traffic the centre would generate along Blackcomb Way. He asked if the traffic could be redirected to a Lorimer Road entry and exit point.

"We believe that there’s sufficient traffic already on Blackcomb Way," he said, adding that he was speaking on behalf of The Gable strata council.

He was also worried about losing the old pine trees in the area where he loves to walk.

"We’d like the make sure that not a single tree more than necessary is cut down," he said.

As a final point Tutsch also expressed concern about the future of the site if the First Nations cultural centre is not a success.

"We’d like some assurance or protection... that this will always be a cultural centre," he said.

Bob MacPherson, the interim general manager of planning and development services at the municipality, addressed some of those concerns.

He said that the project as it currently stands calls for one way traffic from Lorimer Road onto Blackcomb Way. This traffic flow could be revised.

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