Sustainability plan will shape Whistler’s future 

Public invited to help choose a consulting firm

The word "sustainability" is bandied about more and more frequently these days. There’s now a Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management in Victoria. A UBC team is planning to build the most "environmentally sustainable building in North America." And Whistler is hosting a series of speakers in its Leadership Through Sustainable Innovation series.

Whistler is also updating its 1993 Comprehensive Development Plan with a Comprehensive Sustainability Plan. And in a unique move, the municipality is asking Whistler residents for their input on which consulting firm should be hired to produce the plan.

This Saturday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m., the four short-listed consultants will be presenting their visions for Whistler Comprehensive Sustainability Plan at a public forum in the conference centre.

"We’ve stressed to the consultants the importance of involving the entire community in the process," Mike Purcell, the municipality’s general manager of planning and development services, told council this week.

The four consultants will not see or here each other’s presentation.

"The term sustainability has been batted around this community for a few years now," says Purcell, who is overseeing the project. "But what exactly does sustainability mean in the context of a resort community? And how can it be achieved while maintaining our success?"

The municipality posed these questions in an extensive request for proposal that was sent to a number of planning, economic and environmental specialists across North America who were invited to assemble teams of experts in the environmental, social, economic and public participation fields. Four teams, short listed from the 11 who responded, were asked to develop proposals on how they would go about preparing a comprehensive sustainability plan for Whistler.

"It’s critical to the success of a sustainability plan that it be developed with the input of those most impacted, namely all the community," Purcell says. "So we asked the four teams on the short list to present their proposals in a public forum. This process will take a few hours of residents’ time, but it’s an excellent opportunity to participate in the shaping of our community’s future. The community’s input at this stage will be invaluable to both council and the winning consultant team."

A sustainability plan will address key issues such as the ultimate size of the resort, future land use, the relationship between Whistler and other communities in the region, the continued provision of employee housing, infrastructure and environmental, business and social sustainability. It is meant to consolidate and supercede existing policy documents such as the Comprehensive Development Strategy and will update Whistler 2002, integrating sustainability in all that Whistler does.

The four consulting teams that will make presentations Saturday are: Center for Resource Management, a Denver-based company headed by Terry Minger, who was Vail’s administrator before he became president of the Whistler Village Land Company from 1979 to 1981; Design Workshop, also of Denver; GBH Consulting Group Ltd. of Victoria; and RAND Environment, a company out of Santa Monica, California. All four principle companies propose to use a number of sub consultants.

At the forum, each team will make a 45-minute presentation, followed by a 15-minute question and answer period. The teams have also been asked to present their insights on the characteristics of a successful destination resort and what sustainability means in a resort community setting.

Residents will be given a questionnaire to complete. To ensure the integrity of the process, feedback on all four presentations is required, so anyone planning to attend must arrive at 2 p.m. and remain for the duration of the presentations. The session is expected to wrap up around 6:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served.


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