Opinion » Editorial


"I’d like to qualify (my words): Every time I say ‘affordable’ I don’t mean it. It’s not affordable, it’s the best we can do in Whistler." – Ken Melamed, Aug. 4, 1998 council meeting On Monday council is expected to give fourth and final reading to the 19 Mile Creek employee housing project and third reading to the Lorimer Road employee housing project. If it doesn’t Whistler may as well scrap the whole concept of employee housing once and for all and move on to some other issue. Certainly that will be the response from private developers, and it may well be the response of employees looking to make a commitment to Whistler. The 19 Mile Creek project, in particular, has been beaten to death in the two years since it first became public. In the two public information meetings and the public hearing held for this project it has been linked to everything from arsonists to drug dealers to floods. If another public hearing had been held someone might have found a link between the project and a swarm of locusts. It’s not about building on a flood plain; Whistler Village is built on a 200 year flood plain. Would someone — who hides behind the cloak of anonymity — have spent money on an ad warning taxpayers they will be on the hook in the event of 19 Mile Creek flooding if the proposal was for one large, fancy single family house instead of employee housing? Charges that the public process has been skirted subverted or ignored are just wrong. A number of conditions were set and reports required before fourth reading is given to this project. Those requirements have apparently been met, to the satisfaction of municipal staff, Ministry of Environment staff, insurance companies and council. They are public documents, but that doesn’t mean a decision should be delayed while interested members of the public give their feedback. Even if 19 Mile Creek is approved Monday, it will still be late fall 1999 before the project is built. As to the suggestion that there was overwhelming opposition to 19 Mile Creek and that council has chosen not to listen to that opposition, anyone who has attended public hearings or served on council knows that these meetings are likely to draw opponents and that they rarely attract people who want to speak in favour of the project. The fact that the 19 Mile Creek public hearing drew several people who had the courage to stand up in a hostile room and speak in favour says something about the state of employee housing in Whistler. From this public process — feedback from the original proposal two years ago, the public information meetings, the public hearing, letters and phone calls — council members have had to decide whether the project should live or die. Six out of seven council members felt at third reading the 19 Mile Creek project serves the community’s interests. For their considered opinion, they may face a law suit, the last desperate measure when all other options have been exhausted. At the heart of the issue is something Whistler has talked about for years but has never made a concerted effort to address: employee housing. It’s not about flooding or the public process being subverted or promises made and not kept — it’s about employee housing; employee housing at the entrance to Alpine Meadows, at the foot of Lorimer Road, behind Nesters and at Beaver Flats. It’s time. The 19 Mile Creek proposal has met all the requirements. It is now a benchmark: either Whistler needs employee housing and this project will be approved, or the whole idea of employee housing should be scrapped and we should move on to something else.

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