From goals and visions to strategies 

Members of Resident Affordability Task Force drafting plans to shape community

Could Whistler give a property tax exemption to local grocery stores, which could ultimately lower the price of staple goods for residents?

Could Whistler expand the Re-Use-It Centre to allow more residents access to cheaper clothes and furniture and perhaps even construction waste?

Could Whistler really work to promote the Whistler Card, giving more residents access to local discounts?

The Comprehensive Sustainability Plan task force on Resident Affordability thinks Whistler could do all these things and more.

A group of nine ordinary citizens have helped develop the resident affordability strategy, one of 16 strategies that will make up Volume II of the CSP long-range planning document.

Volume I was recently adopted by council describing all that Whistler aims to be by 2020, its vision and its goals. Volume II will describe how to get there.

Royal Bank manager Greg Newton, who volunteered to be a member of the task force, said he always reads about the work of the Garry Watsons and Pat Carletons, the politicians who shaped Whistler in the early days, but rarely do the regular citizens get the chance to take part in developing local policy to mould the future.

"Maybe it’s something we can tell our kids… that (we) were involved (in shaping the community) just before the Olympics came," he said.

Likewise, Janet McDonald, executive director of Whistler Community Services Society, said there is a great feeling of accomplishment as the task force works to put the finishing touches on their draft strategy.

"I never imagined such a pro-active initiative would exist," she said. "I think this process is incredible. It is a huge undertaking and I am really excited about being involved."

The ongoing process, which has spanned the course of several meetings to date, revealed some interesting truths about the community for some participants.

"I didn’t realize that there was that many hungry kids here on a Saturday night in Whistler that don’t have $15 in their pocket to buy a meal," said Newton.

Their work didn’t just focus on affordability for young adults, living here for a season. It also looked at affordability for the people who live here long-term. And what they realized was residents were spending a lot of time working just to get by.

"People weren’t accomplishing what they came here for, and that was to live and recreate in the resort, because they were too busy working," said Newton, adding that he knows several staff members at the bank hold down two or three jobs.

And so, the task force work began by developing a budget, to see where all the money was going.

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