Opinion » Editorial


Opening remarks Council listens to community Monday night’s 4-2 vote to reject the proposal for a national freestyle team facility and 22 single-family lots was a significant, symbolic step by council. It was the first time in recent memory that a development project has received first and second reading, gone to a public hearing, and then been rejected. That act sent out a lot of messages, to the community, to developers and to other private land owners hoping for re-zoning. The technical merits of the project — including what sort of impact development of the 22 lots would have had on the nearby wetlands — could be debated indefinitely. The main reasons the proposal was turned down were lack of community support and the feeling that somehow the extraordinary circumstances clause, which allowed the project to come forward in the first place, had been exploited. The developer, Norwood, did not circumvent the process for acquiring rezoning and thus development rights. But as Councillor Dave Kirk said, after spending two years developing a new Official Community Plan and setting parameters for further development, council has to be seen to be working in the spirit of that OCP, even though the Norwood proposal was submitted while the previous OCP was in effect. What became clearer Monday night is that council members are allowed some discretion within the process — and they will exercise that discretion. That may now be seen by developers as an added risk to investing in Whistler, but it will be seen by many others as a reassurance that council is serious about holding the line on development and working within the OCP. The decision should not be seen by the freestyle team as a sign they are not wanted. Where the team makes its headquarters is uncertain, but the community spoke clearly at last week’s public hearing: the freestyle team is welcome in Whistler, it’s the 22 lots they didn’t want. At the same time Monday’s decision does not close the door once and for all on development of the McDonald’s lands. The five parcels next to Adventures West could still, under their present RR1 zoning, become five hostels or five single-family homes. But the expectations and desires of much of the community, as expressed at last week’s public hearing and followed through on by council this week, should be kept in mind before another development proposal is floated for the McDonald’s lands. That leaves the owners and the developer in a tough spot, at least for the moment, but one which has been looming on the horizon for some time and which other owners of RR1 land may find themselves in, too. The community spoke and council heard: Whistler is committed to enough development in the foreseeable future to say no to additional proposals at this time. – Bob Barnett