editorial 

If it’s such a good deal, what’s the hurry? We refer, of course, to the proposed Emerald Forest deal, announced last week. The proposal, for those who didn’t catch it — and that’s the point of the above question — is for Intrawest to buy the 139-acre Emerald Forest from the Decigon group for an undisclosed price. Intrawest would then turn the land over to the municipality, to be preserved in its present state forever, in return for 476 bed units and $1 million. Those 476 bed units, which go beyond the development cap, would be translated into a hotel on Lot 5, the northern end of the day skier parking lot at Blackcomb. At the conclusion of the Aug. 9 council meeting, where the proposed deal was made public for the first time, acting mayor Kristi Wells indicated that the public hearings for the rezoning bylaws associated with the proposed deal would probably be held in September. Apparently that is not the case. The public hearings — the last opportunity for public input — will be held this Monday, Aug. 23, the same evening council gives initial consideration to the one rezoning bylaw which will be needed for the entire Creekside redevelopment. For those keeping score, Intrawest’s Creekside redevelopment plans include the three lodges, underground parking structure, mini-village and new Dusty’s at Creekside itself; the 60-lot high-end Peaks subdivision; and the Spring Creek subdivision south of Millar’s Pond, which includes single family lots, townhouses, an elementary school, day care and fire hall. Between the three main components of the Creekside project, the proposed hotel on Lot 5 and the "landmark" hotel on Lot E (that’s the other half of the day skier parking lot below the Chateau Whistler), Intrawest is looking at 2,800 bed units. That’s five hotels or lodges, two residential subdivisions and a new commercial core area. It’s just too much for the average Whistlerite to wrap his or her brain around on a Monday evening in August, when most people are physically or mentally on holidays. Hell, half of council wasn’t even present for last week’s meeting. The Creekside plans were made public a couple of months ago and were the subject of public information meetings earlier this summer. They have been on the Aug. 23 council agenda for first and second reading for some time. The public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 7. But the details of the proposed Emerald Forest deal were unknown to most people until last Monday. And some details are still unknown. A staff report to council suggested either of the Lot 5 or Lot E hotels could "exceed Whistler’s accepted standard of sanitary sewers flowing beyond 50 per cent of design capacity." If an upgrade of sewer pipes between the Benchlands and the Spruce Grove pump station is required the municipality will be on the hook for 100 per cent of the cost. But what that cost would be is not yet known. In other words the total cost of the Emerald Forest deal has not yet been determined. On the other hand, the value of preserving the Emerald Forest in its entirety can not be underestimated. This is a critical piece of land because it completes the protected area stretching all the way from Alta to Green Lake. Moreover, the two-plus years of negotiations it took to achieve this proposed deal should not be overlooked. Various scenarios were considered which would have seen some development on the Emerald Forest. Expropriation of the lands was discussed. But in the end it took a third party, Intrawest, to make the proposed deal happen. It may be the best possible deal, but most Whistlerites need more time to consider and understand its full implications. It took more than two years to bring this deal together; the public should be given more than two weeks to consider it. The public hearing should be put off until mid-September.

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