Three years ago the editorial staff of this paper endorsed six of the seven present members of council, breaking a long Whistler tradition of local newspapers staying silent on endorsements at election time.
This year the endorsements in this space come from the editor, rather than the entire editorial staff. The endorsement is for change.
The current members of council have all stressed their collective accomplishments over the past two terms. (The present council has been together for six years, with the exception of Councillor Nick Davies who was elected three years ago.) This group has done some very good things for Whistler, which they have rightly been praised for. They are honourable people who have worked for the betterment of the community, and for that they deserve our sincere thanks.
However, the suggestion by the incumbents that Whistler's future will now unfold exactly as planned, provided they are returned to office, sounds too much like the old promise, the cheque is in the mail. Nine years of the same council is not what Whistler needs at this time.
If there is one issue that stands out from others this election year it is "affordability." That is a general term, not unlike "sustainability," that can mean a whole host of things. But the heart of the affordability issue in Whistler, in this writer's opinion and in the opinion of several of the incumbent councillors, is housing. Only belatedly, and after exacerbating the situation during the last three years, has this council come to recognize this. We refer here specifically to the Whistler 3 and Zen proposals which died - in the case of the Whistler 3 proposal it died twice - under this council.
Both of these development proposals would have provided additional housing for local residents and employees. That would have come at some cost; in the minds of most council members, at too high a cost. But what has been achieved by rejecting those costs?
The Whistler 3 proposal involved three parcels of land. It would have seen large trophy homes on sites in White Gold and Whistler Cay and resident-restricted housing on the Cheakamus North lands between Millar's Pond and Spring Creek. Today there are two (rather than five) large homes on the Whistler Cay site and the White Gold and Cheakamus North sites remain undeveloped.
The Zen proposal, on an area also known as the Millar Creek lands, could have provided 820 rental employee housing beds, preservation of 80 per cent of the lands, including the most environmentally sensitive wetlands, and produced 200 market bed units, in 16 large homes and 47 townhouses. After council turned thumbs down on the proposal the municipality offered to buy the lands. That offer was rejected and council then moved to downzone the lands. If the downzoning, which sits at third reading, is adopted the lands may be protected, but a lawsuit against the municipality - which the RMOW could conceivably win - is a certainty.