OCP approved by province 

Lil'wat Nation considers legal options after Whistler's OCP gets nod

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The province may have approved Whistler's new Official Community Plan, but local First Nations are still considering taking legal action against it.

"We are clearly disappointed with the (province's) decision to approve the OCP, despite our objections," said Lil'wat chief Lucinda Phillips in an email to the Pique.

"Whistler is in the core of Lil'wat Nation territory and we are simply trying to ensure that our community has access to the economic opportunities in that area.

"We will be exploring options in the coming days and we have not ruled out legal action."

The email followed Monday's early evening announcement via press release that the province had approved Whistler's OCP after considering it for more than four months in Victoria.

Bill Bennett, minister of community, sport and cultural development, has now signed the approval, the last step needed before council can officially adopt the OCP bylaws and make the updated plan law. Whistler requires provincial approval because it is a resort community, unlike other communities in B.C. The last OCP was written in 1993, 20 years ago.

The approval comes despite the objections raised by neighbouring First Nations who are concerned about the OCP's "hard cap" on growth and future development, particularly as it relates to Crown lands in the municipality.

Speaking before learning of Lil'wat's continuing concerns, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she was glad to have the plan get provincial approval, which came in the nick of time considering the writ has been dropped for a provincial election.

"(I'm) really happy that one's put to bed," she said.

"Staff and the community all worked diligently getting this new (plan) in place. It's good this chapter is closed.

"Completing the Official Community Plan was one of the key deliverables for this council and we are incredibly pleased that it has been approved by the Province.

"An OCP is one of the most important plans for a municipality and this updated plan comes at a critical time in Whistler's history with resort-wide discussions underway for how we move forward from this point. The OCP is a very important guiding document in this process.

"We have worked to engage the First Nations on the development of the OCP and look forward to continuing to work in partnership."

That's a claim Phillips refutes. "Consultation with Lil'wat was not adequate and our legal interests have not been addressed," she said.

"Our economic aspirations include cultural and environmental protections that promote sustainability in the long term."

Chief Ian Campbell of Squamish Nation did not respond before Pique's deadline, nor did the lawyer representing both Nations.

The provincial press release states: "The Province is prepared to engage both the municipality and local First Nations in future discussions on land use and economic development opportunities."

Whistler's updated plan was three years in the making.

Just last week the mayor expressed concerns at a community meeting that the plan could be stuck in provincial limbo if not approved before the election.

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