editorial 

There are several lessons that can be learned from the Emerald Forest deal but one that should be apparent by now is that bed units are not an absolute or precise measurement, nor are they a limit to growth. Bed units — a Whistler-ism created when the municipality was incorporated and the first task at hand was to build a sewer system — were intended as a measure of sewage capacity, and later other infrastructure capacities. They have always been equated with growth but the building permits don’t automatically cease when the tally reaches 52,500. In fact, bed units are becoming more like that science experiment in the back of your fridge: they seem to keep growing... Whistler’s revised bed unit total, prior to the creation of 476 new bed units to purchase the Emerald Forest, was 54,623. That total, for the first time, included employee housing bed units, but it’s not just employee housing projects and the Emerald Forest deal that have pushed the total up. Large tracts of RR1 land, such as BC Rail’s 500-odd acres on the west side of Alta Lake, have traditionally been counted as six bed units. However, BC Rail applied to subdivide its property into 20 acre parcels before the municipality raised the minimum size for subdivision parcels to 100 acres. As a result, the BC Rail lands can be subdivided into 24 20-acre single family lots without any rezoning. Consequently the 500 acres which were six bed units can become 144 bed units. And just how gross an approximation bed units can be is seen in the fact that a 7,000 square foot single family estate home counts for six bed units, just as does a 1,100 square foot A-frame built in 1970. But rather than focusing on the 52,500 figure and trying to figure out how it has been passed, Whistler needs to re-examine the concept it was pursuing in the first place: limiting growth in the valley. Limiting growth may be a more honest approach than attempting to halt all further development beyond what seems to have been committed. Indeed, bed units have recently taken on the ability to not only grow but to float or move about the valley, so it may be just as important to limit the impact of these remaining bed units as it is to determine how many more bed units remain. Whistler is not alone in attempting to limit growth. One of the principles in the Aspen Skiing Company’s statement of policy acknowledges "the finite capacity of the valley." But rather than draw a line in the sand, the Aspen Area Community Plan tries to limit the population growth to two per cent per annum. Keystone, Colorado has a formal policy of no net loss of environment. According to Whistler’s 1999 Community and Resort Monitoring Report, "assuming an average of 2,300 new bed units (built) per year, build out of all the remaining undeveloped bed units would be completed in 2003." That’s the same year the 2010 Olympics will be awarded. One of the "conditions" that had to be met before Whistler agreed to participate in the Olympic bid was that it be done within the valley’s existing infrastructure. But even if there are no more development rights given out, maybe there’s a need to develop additional facilities and activities — such as the nordic facility in the Callaghan Valley — in order to maintain the liveability of the Whistler Valley. Limiting growth may mean building in some kind of relief valve for Whistler — such as the Callaghan Valley or even the proposed Cayoosh Resort. It doesn’t mean counting every bed unit.

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