Whether you believe the next millennium will start in two years or in three doesn’t really matter. What Whistler has to begin this year — 1998 — is to take some concrete steps forward toward Whistler in the next millennium. By 2003, according to the municipality’s most recent statistics, Whistler will have reached buildout — with the majority of projects to be completed before 2000. Intrawest’s announcement later this month about what it intends to do at Creekside and when will play a large part in when Whistler reaches buildout, but the betting is it will all happen sooner rather than later. Why hold on to the last significant chunk of commercial development in a resort that may have already reached its peak in terms of media exposure and awareness? (Whether the buildout limit on development will be maintained is another matter all together. It has never been set as an absolute limit on all development, but it’s pretty tough to attract investors to projects proposed beyond buildout when each one has to pass both public and council scrutiny and be seen as something Whistler really needs). Anyway, the guts of the matter are that after nearly a 20-year run of growth and development, Whistler, as a municipality, is going to have to start to wean itself from this cash teat. It’s happening far sooner than anyone would have guessed, but the first rudimentary steps to achieve this end are being taken. That’s part of the reason for the municipality’s new direction in budgeting, encouraging departments within municipal hall to take an entrepreneurial approach and rewarding them for saving money. As well, the municipality is currently reviewing its long-term financial plan. When complete, Whistler will call on a firm like Coopers and Lybrand to help prepare a case for why Victoria should share some of the tax revenue it currently collects from Whistler with the municipality. The case will likely take the form of a business plan, explaining how it is that Whistler contributes an estimated $700 million annually to the provincial economy, and how for that to continue Whistler must a) limit development and b) continue to be "fresh" and competitive with other resorts around the world. The plan is to talk to Victoria about sharing existing "tools," such as the real estate transfer tax, rather than creating new taxes that would make Whistler more expensive. There will also be financial decisions that the community will have to make — but of course they won’t be strictly financial. The example that leaps to mind is extending the life of the landfill to 2010 or 2020. The situation presented at the moment is that the municipality can proceed with closure of the landfill by 2000 as planned, or it can make the landfill bigger — extending its life 10 or 20 years — and using the money saved to create an environmental legacy fund. On the surface it sounds like a question for a referendum. And of course these steps must be taken while balancing the resort aspect of Whistler with the growing, evolving, changing community. These and other steps taken in 1998 will be key in how Whistler enters the next millennium, whether it’s in 2000 or 2001. Constructive criticism, suggestions, concerns about this millennium project would be welcomed.

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