Official Community Plan bylaw headed to public hearing 

Long-awaited community plan gets second reading

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE CRANE/COURTESY OF TOURISM WHISTLER
  • Photo by Mike Crane/courtesy of Tourism Whistler

Whistler's long-gestating updated Official Community Plan (OCP) bylaw is headed to a public hearing after receiving second reading on March 12.

The OCP bylaw has been revised slightly since getting first reading (under Whistler's previous council) on Oct. 2, addressing comments from the Lil'wat Nation and Mountain Resorts Branch, and including minor policy revisions, updated definitions and other "housekeeping edits," explained director of planning Mike Kirkegaard in a presentation to council.

"Some of the specific changes (include) ... recognizing the interest in commercial ventures and event uses of our parks infrastructure or amenities, and how we manage that, (and) the transportation policy (has been) revised to emphasize preferred modes," Kirkegaard said.

"We've revised the wildfire DPA (Development Permit Area) guidelines to reflect the recent changes in FireSmart Canada, (and) we've revised the DPA for protection of riparian areas and sensitive ecosystems to remove an exemption that was no longer prudent under the environment protection bylaw."

Kirkegaard also introduced two last-minute alterations: one changing the designation on the recently rezoned Bunbury Lands from "residential very low" to "residential low-to-medium," and an exemption allowing "a number of developments" that have already been through extensive environmental review processes to proceed under the new OCP.

The OCP bylaw will now be referred to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, the Squamish and Lil'wat nations and School Districts 48 and 93.

An official public hearing—in which all members of the public may speak for or against the OCP—will follow (tentatively scheduled for April 16).

Third reading is expected to take place in May, with adoption targeted for summer 2019.

One big factor in past Whistler OCPs has been the provincial Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) Act, which requires all local OCP amendments to be approved by the provincial minister of municipal affairs and housing (Whistler being only one of three communities in B.C. with that requirement).

"Over the past several weeks, the Province of B.C. has moved forward with legislation to change the RMOW Act and remove this requirement," said Mayor Jack Crompton at the March 12 meeting. "It is expected that this will be finalized and come into effect this year."

Without that requirement, the RMOW will have much greater flexibility when it comes to its OCP amendments, said Councillor John Grills, pointing to the two last-minute housekeeping amendments introduced earlier by Kirkegaard.

"I think the fact that there was a couple of late additions, even as of yesterday, to this document, shows how valuable it's going to be to have (that) ... removal of the ministerial approval, so that that's just a council housekeeping item in the future, and not such an ordeal like it's been in the past," Grills said. "So I'm very much looking forward to the summer of 2019, and taking this and putting it on a shelf permanently."

While the term "carrying capacity" appears numerous times in the draft OCP, it's never clearly defined, pointed out local resident John Wood, during the Q and A portion of the meeting.

"What I'd like to ask council to do tonight, would be to answer the question: what is comfortable carrying capacity, how is it measured, and how is it fairly managed?" Wood asked.

The short answer is that there is no definitive measure, but the RMOW is looking at capacity issues in all areas of the resort, Crompton said.

"It's the type of thing that we need to be on top of day to day and feeding information back into our systems, so I don't have a definite measure for you, but I can say with confidence that we're paying close attention to it, and you'll see that reflected in the budget," Crompton said, pointing to projects in the 2019 budget related to trailheads, parking and parks.

But Wood pointed out that the response to capacity issues in Whistler is often to build more capacity.

"Particularly with the OCP, in final readings, I think that (carrying capacity) needs to be defined more definitively than it is, and I hope you can do that," Wood said.

Council's vote on second reading was unanimous, with little in the way of discussion.

When the OCP bylaw came to Whistler's previous council for first reading on Oct. 2, former Coun. Sue Maxwell was the only dissenting vote.

"I think this document's a really good beginning, but I hope the next council will really go through it with an eye to making changes that reflect the feedback," she said at the time. "We really need to make sure that the next council has the opportunity to make changes, so I will not be supporting this." (read more at www.piquenewsmagazine.com/whistler/ocp-bylaw-gets-first-reading/Content?oid=10972397).

The full document can be found at www.whistler.ca/ocp.

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