editorial 

A public information meeting Monday regarding the future road network that will serve White Gold and the new Spruce Grove subdivision was a prime example of what Whistler, as a town, is all about in the latter years of the 20th century. The values that must be weighed are "protecting" existing neighbourhoods versus the valley’s needs as a whole. How well the two can be balanced, or whether the scale tilts in one direction, will increasingly be a question for both council and the community. Fortunately in the White Gold/Spruce Grove case a balanced decision (a compromise?) seems attainable, if a bridge on Nancy Greene Drive is maintained. An electronic gate at the end of Fitzsimmons Road North, like that at Blueberry Hill, would allow public transit and emergency vehicles access to each subdivision, thus making the two subdivisions part of a bus route. At the same time it would mean little or no additional traffic through White Gold and would keep Spruce Grove from being a thoroughfare. The key, however, is maintaining a bridge on Nancy Greene Drive. The temporary bridge does not meet Ministry of Environment standards for a 200 year flood, but it’s in the location most people seem to prefer. Scrapping the proposed replacement bridge a few hundred metres downstream and using those funds to build an MoE-approved bridge at Nancy Greene Drive only when it’s needed might even save the municipality some money in the long run. Monday’s meeting was called so that council could hear what area residents and property owners had to say. Understandably, they want to minimize through traffic and preserve the present nature of their neighbourhood as best they can. It’s the same in Alpine Meadows, Alta Vista and every other residential area in the valley. These are honourable goals. The nature of the various subdivisions is one of the reasons Whistler is such a desirable place to live. But Whistler is not static, and for the whole valley to remain a desirable place to live and to visit some disruption is necessary. The two principal areas of change imposed on neighbourhoods will be in the areas of transportation and affordable housing. The need for affordable housing has been well documented, and the Whistler Housing Authority maintains that Whistler is still some ways away from fulfilling the need, despite the current, temporary softness in the market. The consequences of not building affordable housing have also been well documented, and reinforced last fall during council’s tour of American ski resorts. Transportation, or more accurately, alternatives to the automobile, is also becoming increasingly critical to Whistler’s long-term health and liveability. The long-overdue transportation master plan is expected to lay out a program to reduce reliance on the automobile but, like affordable employee housing, for it to become a reality requires a long-term commitment from members of the community, as well as council. A win-win situation seems feasible in the White Gold/Spruce Grove area, but if Whistler is to continue to be a desirable place to live it will increasingly require a balanced consideration of neighbourhood and valley-wide concerns.

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