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blueberry gate

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The Blueberry gate will be opened to transit vehicles on a six-month trial basis and there will be a traffic light at Highway 99 and Blueberry Drive. With a delegation of approximately 50 Blueberry Hill and Whistler Cay residents, led by lawyer Mark Sager, in chambers Monday council members were unanimous in voting to install the traffic light before the ski season gets underway. However, the decision to open the gate came down to a 4:2 vote after nearly an hour of debate. Councillors Thelma Johnstone and Max Kirkpatrick opposed the motion to open the gate on a six-month trial basis to transit vehicles, during peak periods of the day. Mayor Ted Nebbeling also voiced his opposition to opening the gate, but the mayor only votes to break a tie. The decision, which was met by silence from those in attendance, was contrary to the recommendation by municipal staff. Director of Public Works John Nelson had recommended the gate be open "to normal traffic movements on a trial basis" for a year. Prior to the vote Sager, who was hired by some residents of Blueberry and Whistler Cay, told council their decision would come down to preserving a sense of neighbourhood. "The preservation of neighbourhoods — use a sense of what people bought into as the basis for your decision," Sager said. He noted the resolutions passed at a 1990 meeting on the Blueberry gate stated the gate would be open for emergency vehicles and transit, but those resolutions were passed before Whistler had a transit system. "Are we looking for traffic efficiency or preserving neighbourhood values?" Sager asked. Blueberry Hill resident Peter Webb suggested "a highly efficient transportation system is probably inconsistent with what Whistler is." Johnstone started the debate among council members by saying she believed the gate should remain closed and there should be some finality to the issue, rather than having it raised every few years. Kirkpatrick concurred, but reserved final judgement until the municipality’s transportation study is completed. The study is expected to be completed in the spring of 1998. Councillor Bill Murray, who is chairman of the municipality’s transportation committee, responded that council had to do what’s best for the community as a whole. "I can’t agree with the statement that transportation is not important to Whistler, it’s part of what makes people’s property valuable," Murray said. He added that the current transit system, which uses diesel busses, may not be the final transportation solution, "but we have to make some decisions on an efficient transportation system now." Councillor Dave Kirk added his support, saying the decision was best for the whole community. "We’re looking at the entire transportation system, not just one area," Kirk said. Councillor Hugh O’Reilly noted that the gate would be open to transit buses only during peak periods of traffic and, with the monitoring program that was included in the motion, would provide more detailed information on what Whistler’s transit needs are. "I know residents are scared, they think this is the thin edge of the wedge," O’Reilly said, "but we don’t know the future. It may be that we’re way off base on this, but it will begin to tell us (information)." Councillor Kristi Wells, who put forward the motion, said: "It would be easy to defer this now, we’ve done it in the past. But if we don’t do this I don’t think we’ll have any more information... in the future. By doing the light and the gate together we well get more information."

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