Whistler seeking provincial nod for community plan 

No material changes to OCP document after issues raised at public hearing

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It may feel like a weight off council's shoulders — finally sending its Official Community Plan to the province for approval — but what happens from here on in is now out of Whistler's hands.

And the goal to have the most important planning document passed into law by the end of the year remains up in the air. 

On Tuesday council unanimously gave third reading to the OCP bylaws. It is one of the final steps before seeing its community plan passed into law.

But, there is still a big hurdle ahead — Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations have threatened to block approval from the province until their concerns are addressed, namely that the OCP has an "unfair impact" on undeveloped Crown land in Whistler on which they have claimed aboriginal rights and title.

"They asked us to go to a place where we simply cannot go," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, referring to the municipal consultation with the two nations in trying to find a resolution to their concerns.

Still, that overhanging threat did little to temper council's obvious pleasure in seeing the OCP reach this point.

"Congratulations," said Councillor Duane Jackson with a nod to work staff has done on the plan for the past two and half years. "It's been a long time coming."

The mayor echoed the praise and also thanked staff for the patience in guiding the current council through the OCP process.

"We wanted to put our stamp on it and I think we've done that," she said.

Councillor Andrée Janyk was pleased to see the staff rationale to continue on course with the OCP as written despite the concerns raised at the public hearing earlier this month. She said she appreciated the time staff took to address some of the public questions. "I feel more comfortable now," she said.

Chief among those concerns at the public hearing was the bed cap, Whistler's unique tool to limit growth. Both Whistler Blackcomb and the proponents of the Whistler International Campus expressed reservations to the hard limit to development in the future and the potential impacts that may have.

In his summary from the public hearing, manager of planning Mike Kirkegaard wrote: "No change is recommended to the policies related to Bed Units. Any new policy pertaining to Bed Units would be a fundamental and contentious change and would necessitate a new consultation process."

Councillor Jack Crompton praised Whistler's "strong and careful planning practices."

"If raising the bed cap becomes a topic for conversation in the future, I think maybe at that point we start to talk about the connection between bed units and upload capacity (at Whistler Blackcomb) and recreation," said Crompton. "But this document says we, as a community, want a bed cap."

Likewise, concerns were expressed at the public hearing about the 100-metre assessment area for development close to wetlands, also by the campus proponents.Minor changes have been made on wetlands policy to "minimize the loss of habitat between 30 and 100 metres from wetlands with an area greater than 10 hectares."

Whistler must get provincial approval of its community plan because it is a resort municipality. Regional districts also need provincial approval of community plans.

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