Decision on sustainability consultants delayed 

Council, staff divided over who would serve Whistler best

Whistler council has put off choosing consultants to help draft the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan for another week.

Council was to select the consultants who would receive the $500,000 contract Monday after months of discussions about the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan (CSP) and a marathon presentation session to the public Feb. 2 where four teams vied for the chance to guide Whistler towards sustainability.

The delay stems from a division in council over the top two teams – GBH Consulting Group and the Center for Resource Management (CRM).

The proposal that went before council this week ranked GBH as the top choice of the municipal staff.

Mike Purcell, the general manager of planning and development services at the municipality, outlined several reasons for the staff's choice.

GBH is a strong synergetic team who outlined a specific public consultation process to create the CSP, he said.

GBH also won the overall public support after the four teams presented their vision of Whistler's sustainability at the conference centre two weeks ago. At that time, 122 members of the public filled out questionnaires rating each team's performance.

GBH ranked number one in every category except one, which ranked the team's economic expertise. In this area they were ranked second.

However, staff recommended to council that GBH add at least two new experts to their team who are familiar with resort economics and planning.

"I liked their process and their idea of setting up kitchen table meetings," said Councillor Ken Melamed, who was ready to support the recommendation at the meeting and choose GBH.

Councillors Dave Kirk and Stephanie Sloan were absent from Monday’s meeting.

Councillors Nick Davies and Ted Milner were hesitant to endorse GBH because they did not believe GBH was the best team for Whistler.

"I am not comforted that GBH has the experience... to address those issues within a mountain resort setting," said Davies.

He also questioned the statistics from the questionnaire survey that ranked GBH as the top team.

"I am not convinced that the statistical methodology that was applied to the survey was a statistically sound method," he said.

The CRM team is based in Denver, Colorado. Some of its key members were the planners and visionaries who helped build present-day Whistler.

"I think we're tossing out the CRM professionalism just because they have American accents," Milner said.

Milner also suggested Whistler was looking for fresh thinking on all three legs of the sustainability stool – social, economic and environmental sustainability – and GBH offered ideas only on environmental sustainability.

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