Opinion » Editorial


Whistler has to take a serious look in the mirror. In the constant tug-of-war between community needs and individual rights, it has not been a stellar week for the community. I refer to the now-infamous public information meeting on the 19 Mile Creek employee housing proposal, the seven letters to council opposing employee housing on Beaver Flats, the formation of ad hoc neighbourhood organizations to oppose employee housing, and the letters from British tour operators threatening to sue the municipality if they lose business under the new plans for regulating chalet and villa accommodation. Certainly these projects and regulations are not above criticism and public scrutiny, but the last-one-in-pull-up-the-drawbridge mentality that some people have shown is staggering. Ad hoc groups soliciting funds to hire their own consultants to find fault with these projects — has it come down to an all-out class war in Whistler? I can’t comment on the public information meeting on 19 Mile Creek; I wasn’t there. But some of the words people who were there have used include "embarrassing" and "poorly handled." It’s not even clear exactly whose meeting it was. So, setting aside the specifics of the 19 Mile meeting, there are some aspects of these issues that are a given. For instance, it’s understood that any time a proposal is brought forward it’s an opportunity for people to criticize it, whether it’s the Olympics, a new ski area, a golf course or an employee housing project. This is part of the public process and is not in itself a bad thing. There are no perfect projects and most proposals are improved with the feedback, concerns and constructive criticism of neighbours. But while some people have in the last week limited their criticisms of employee housing projects to specific issues, others have taken a shotgun approach, looking into the darkest corners for reasons to object. These people seem to have overlooked several "givens." o The consequences of not providing opportunities for permanent, full-time employees to live in Whistler include an erosion of the community and the resort. o Support for employee housing has been demonstrated at every town hall meeting. o The municipality has said for years, and numerous consultants have advised, that employee housing should be integrated into existing neighbourhoods. o Employee housing, when done properly, doesn’t devalue adjacent properties. Rezoning issues, whether employee housing, pensions or something else, always seem to boil down to a question of individual property owners’ rights and expectations versus what’s of benefit to the resort or community. Due to the fact employee housing hasn’t been seriously and consistently dealt with until fairly recently, a time when Whistler is approaching buildout, it’s obvious that if the "infill" principle is followed there is going to be some impacts on existing neighbourhoods — 19 Mile Creek in Alpine, Beaver Flats in Whistler Creek and others still to come. That doesn’t mean every employee housing project should go ahead without a word being said just because it’s employee housing. What that means is discussion should focus on the merits of a project. But at the same time keep in mind the needs of community as a whole.