Early indications from the municipal monitoring program suggest that Whistler may be growing even faster than many people realized. That growth is not seen just in the physical expansion of the village, the development of land, or even the increase in visitors. The index that shows the highest rate of growth in Whistler is population. "Our rate of population growth is doubling that of the development," according to Mike Vance, the municipality's director of planning. The municipality's full-time population is estimated at 6,800; only four years ago it was 4,500. As well, the planning department's survey indicates that 27 per cent of second homeowners are interested in making Whistler their home in the future. Twenty per cent of second homeowners indicated they would like to make the move to Whistler in the next two years. Aware of the growing permanent population in Whistler, the Howe Sound School Board this week moved a second elementary school for Whistler up its priority list — and will begin looking for a site for a third elementary school. Among the problems to be ironed out before a second elementary is built is the costly matter of extending the municipal sewer system to the proposed site, on the plateau just south of Emerald Estates. The lack of affordable housing is a more immediate problem — and it doesn't just affect transient workers. If Whistler's population growth is to include more than second homeowners there must be room for people trying to get into the housing market. The highway bypass may also have to be looked at much sooner than expected, as growth in the Pemberton Valley and traffic on the Duffey Lake Road increases. Through most of its 20 year history the municipality has done a good job of planning and budgeting for infrastructure improvements, such as expansion of the sewage system. Development cost surcharges have paid for much of the infrastructure, but the ceiling on development is approaching rapidly. What the monitoring system is saying and what resort consultant Myles Rademan is saying is that Whistlerites should now be preparing for build-out.


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