Opinion » Editorial


While it comes six months after originally promised and is breathtaking in its scope, Intrawest deserves considerable credit for laying out its plans for Creekside and the remaining bed units it inherited with the purchase of Whistler Mountain. The proposal — and it is only a proposal, albeit one made after considerable consultation with municipal planners, Creekside merchants and others — not only shows how the major operator in Whistler would like to use its remaining development rights, but also lays out an approximate timetable for building them. Last week’s announcement of the development plans is liberating in some senses, in that it provides a clear picture of how most of the remaining major developments in Whistler will likely take place — assuming the current ceiling on development remains in place. If some sort of deal involving Decigon’s land, the Prospero property and B.C. Rail’s property can be made this year, and discussions have been underway for some time, all the remaining major land use issues in Whistler will have been resolved, right? Well, not quite. To start with, Intrawest will continue to earn the right to acquire Crown land, through the Commercial Alpine Ski Policy, in return for expanding its lift systems. The question is whether the municipality will grant Intrawest more bed units when it acquires that land. At the moment the answer is a definite no. Regardless, Intrawest has its hands full with projects in Whistler for the next seven-10 years. But somewhere down the road Intrawest and the RMOW are going to have to come to some agreement on what to do with the land the company acquires. Under the municipality’s current Official Community Plan there is a provision to grant additional bed units for projects that offer extraordinary benefit to the community. Who knows what those might be in 2008? The current OCP also allows for granting of additional bed units for affordable employee housing. While there is a long way to go before the demand for employee housing has been met, it has become clear that — contrary to popular belief a few years ago — building employee housing can be profitable for private developers. And given the bitter feelings that have developed over the 19 Mile Creek proposal, not to mention the threatened law suits, at some point it might be politically simpler and easier to put employee housing on some new piece of land Intrawest acquires, rather than integrate them into existing neighbourhoods — although that runs contrary to current thinking and most experts’ findings. A separate development issue lies in the fact Intrawest is free to do what it wants on the mountains. Some sort of mid-mountain activity and entertainment centre, as is planned at Intrawest’s Mont Tremblant and already built at Squaw Valley and Vail, is a distinct possibility on Whistler Mountain. Such a development might link the village with Creekside and, depending on what is in it, impact bars, night clubs, theatres and restaurants. But those issues are a considerable distance down the road. The comprehensive plans announced last week by Intrawest answer many land-use questions and allow for some long-term planning. Feedback on those plans is encouraged at open houses April 21 and 25.