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Having sat through enough public hearings and information meetings that my eyes now automatically glaze over as soon as I hear a gavel banged, I have nevertheless kept just enough distance from a full comatose state to realize a unique Whistler speech pattern. It seems the required preamble to speaking at any Whistler public hearing not only involves stating your name but, more importantly, how long you have been a Whistler resident. Often there follows a dissertation about family status, how hard one works, what they’ve accomplished in life and usually some reference to ancestry — discovering some great uncle who came to this continent on the same ship as Myrtle Philip’s family would seem to be the ultimate in Whistler heraldry. All of which has squat to do with the evening’s rezoning application, but we Whistlerites seem to think it’s required. Following the preamble Whistlerites get into the meat of the matter. "I’m not opposed to employee housing/pensions/gas stations/neighbourhood pubs/brothels/etc., but..." The funny thing about public hearings in Whistler is everyone seems to know the required preamble, but only a small percentage of people who take the time to speak take the time to understand how the rest of "the process" works. That is, people still express surprise and outrage that they weren’t told about the project earlier. Many are even more shocked to learn that a public hearing is the last opportunity they have to make comments on development proposals. That’s not a Whistler bylaw that forbids councillors from hearing more input following the closure of a public hearing, that’s the B.C. Municipal Act. If the proposal is revised then it goes back to public hearing again, but otherwise the public hearing is your last chance. It seems to me that people also need to have some understanding of some of the fundamental policies that guide decisions in this valley, such as the Official Community Plan and Comprehensive Development Plan and what they say about things like capping development and employee housing. This is not meant to belittle people who are concerned about their neighbourhoods and show up at public hearings — they should be commended for taking an interest. But a little more interest, taking a little time to inform oneself about some basic procedures and policies, creates a greater understanding of issues in the neighbourhood and issues in the whole community. Not only that, it’s likely to foster greater participation in the way the community develops. And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a resident of Whistler to participate in shaping the community.

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