Opinion » Editorial


Some of the implications of the municipality’s recently adopted transportation strategy came to light Monday, and we’re not talking about pay parking. The owners of Nesters Market have a proposal to double the size of their popular grocery store at Nesters Square, an expansion which would also see a North Shore Credit Union office added to the mix of businesses in the building. With the expansion the proponets will be able to purchase adjacent property that is currently being used for Nesters Market parking. Without the expansion, the proponents say, they would not be able to purchase the adjacent land, and the lands may be turned over to some use other than parking. The expansion plans show parking would increase from the current 95 stalls to 115 stalls. Despite doubling the size of the grocery store, the proponents say they anticipate only a 5-10 per cent increase in customers, so this increase in stalls is felt by planning staff to be sufficient. The Advisory Planning Commission supported Nesters’ application, as did the Advisory Design Panel. Council, despite voting 4-1 to sent the project to a public information meeting for feedback, appeared to have serious concerns with the plan. Those concerns stem from the transportation strategy. Councillors Kristi Wells, Ken Melamed, Nick Davies and Dave Kirk all expressed doubts about traffic flow and parking. Davies said the plan gives priority to cars, as opposed to traffic. Melamed felt the parking on Nesters Road should be deleted entirely. Angle parking is not permitted on other network roads and it plays havoc with the buses and their schedule — and buses, among other alternatives to automobiles, are what the transportation strategy emphasizes. He also felt there wasn’t enough consideration for pedestrians. Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether the transportation strategy is a good one, the carrot and stick approach to coaxing people out of automobiles and into alternative methods of transportation is going to take some time. And it’s not going to work if bus routes are further disrupted and use of automobiles is made more convenient. On the other hand, is it fair to ask a business to take on the additional costs associated with such a transportation strategy? Not only are some councillors asking that the delivery area be moved to the rear of the building in order to improve traffic flow, Nesters may also be asked to make do with fewer parking stalls while the public gets used to the idea of leaving the car at home and taking the bus. The municipality may also have to adjust some of its policies and requirements if they are to be consistent with the transportation strategy. The municipality currently requires a certain amount of parking with each type of zoning. For instance, for every 100 square metres of floor space a properly zoned grocery or liquor store has, it is required to provide six parking stalls. By that standard, Nesters would require 132 stalls, but some are suggesting it make do with far fewer in order to keep traffic flowing. And a memo from municipal planning staff states: "The Nesters Square development offers an alternative to businesses in Whistler Village. The presence of this alternative potentially reduces the number of trips into the villlage for essential commercial needs. As stated, this is consistent with the TAG goal." However, that’s not consistent with the original goal of making the village the focal point of the valley, a mixing area for locals and visitors. But perhaps this whole idea is outdated; certainly the village can (and does) survive without many local shoppers. This is not to say that the transportation strategy is wrong or misguided, but it means a whole lot more than pay parking, and it’s going to take some getting used to.

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