Opinion » Editorial

editorial

comment
Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch, but it seems to me there is some connection among a number of issues facing Whistler and other mountain resort towns these days. Locally those issues include the continuing shortage of employees due to a lack of affordable housing, the incredible increase in fees — up to 2,000 per cent — Tourism Whistler has levied against corporate members (who still have an option to pay a flat $300 rate), and even the verbal battle over grizzly bears and the proposed Cayoosh resort. Elsewhere, Banff is looking at special zoning to protect "essential" businesses like mechanic garages, hardware stores and grocery stores which are threatened by federal government-imposed limits on commercial growth, that are in turn driving up rents. There is a fear that only tourism-related businesses — as opposed to businesses that serve the resident community — will be able to afford the escalating rents. In Dillon, Colorado, independent business owners are up in arms over a 25,000 square foot store planned by the Borders book store chain. The issue attracted concerned people from as far away as Boulder who expressed fears that such a massive chain store made people feel they were "losing their community identity." And on the transportation front, Colorado resorts Vail and Winter Park recently announced proposals for gondola systems to connect villages with mountains. Last year Telluride installed a gondola to do much the same thing. While there are physical differences in the layout and proximity of these resorts to their skiing mountains, they seem to share Whistler’s plan to reduce reliance on automobiles and find other methods of moving people. What seems to me to bind all of these issues together is the recognition that there must be limits to growth. There is a feeling that in an increasingly homogenous world, where more and more economic clout is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, preserving what is unique and special is increasingly valued. But imposing physical limits creates other pressures. In Banff, at the moment, it’s escalating rents. That, as Dillon and Whistler are finding, may lead to a situation where independent businesses can no longer afford to stay in business, and only large chain stores may be able to afford the rent. The price of real estate in Whistler is, or course, affected by the limit on development. That makes it more difficult to build employee housing. Tourism Whistler’s membership base is reaching its limit, as the town approaches buildout, and the organization says it needs to find additional revenues in order for Whistler to continue to compete in the marketplace. And then there’s the whole matter of how the municipality continues to finance its operations after buildout. None of these are new issues for Whistler, we’ve seen them coming for some time. But it is interesting to see that other mountain towns are facing the same issues. Perhaps a collective approach is needed to find some solutions.

Add a comment