On Nov. 1, 1999, less than three weeks before a municipal election, Whistlers council of the day approved Intrawests Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy by a bare 4-3 vote.
Intrawest had a large inventory of bed units that needed to be nailed down and the community was anxious for something to happen to start the revitalization of Creekside. Three and a half years and millions of dollars later, Creekside is a far different place, but we are only beginning to understand what the changes will mean.
The Whistler South CDS which was a comprehensive strategy for Intrawests development but said nothing about other projects was one big all-or-nothing plan that included the entire Spring Creek subdivision, what is now known as Kadenwood but was then called The Peaks, and development at Creekside itself: three lodges, a new day lodge, the Franzs Trail strip of retail and a multi-level parking structure.
The Whistler South CDS was on councils agenda three times before it was passed that Nov. 1, and was pulled three times out fear that it might fail and the whole Emerald Forest/Decigon deal with Intrawest might then collapse.
Councillors Ken Melamed, Dave Kirk and Nancy Wilhelm-Morden voted against the Whistler South CDS, largely because of the Kadenwood development. After a couple of years of building a new 2 km road up a flank of Whistler Mountain the 60 high-end lots at Kadenwood are now ready for development, but theres not much happening in the current economic climate.
The elementary school site at Spring Creek was one of the big community needs that the Whistler South CDS met. The school board announced that the school would be open in September of 2001, if everything went smoothly. The school is now expected to open sometime this fall.
The first phase of Franzs Trail was opened two winters ago, but the second phase has been delayed for various reasons. Construction of the retail space and the adjacent parking structure is now underway and both are expected to open in time for next winter.
Similarly, the highway underpass and the new channel for Whistler Creek have been delayed, largely because gasoline leaked from the Petro Canada station into the surrounding soil, likely for years. After a couple of years of remediation efforts the underpass and channel are now being built, although the creek itself wont be realigned until all the petro-chemicals are cleaned up.
This week council issued a development permit for the last of the three lodges to be built at Creekside, a 70-room Intrawest Resort Ownership Club building.
While Intrawests redevelopment plans were essential to the long-awaited revitalization of Creekside, others have also been active in the area over the last three and a half years. The Whistler Housing Authoritys Beaver Flats housing project has provided quality housing for a number of permanent residents at Creekside. A decade after it first promised to spruce up Lake Placid Road west of Highway 99 the municipality finally did the work last summer. And last fall the Husky gas station was finally torn down and replaced by a new facility.
What should be the last major project at Whistler Creek the London Mountain Lodge project not withstanding was approved by council this week. By a 4-1 vote council gave third reading to zoning bylaws which will permit the development of the 80-room Nita Lake Lodge, a train station, resident housing and TA zoned housing at Creekside. Additional employee housing near Twin Lakes and the preservation of 25 acres of wetlands is also part of the package.
Taken as a whole, the developments of the last three and a half years, and the next couple of years, will mean more tourists staying in Creekside, more residents living in Creekside, more shopping, more restaurants and more traffic. This will also likely lead to the upgrading or gentrification of many of the older homes in the area. After years of neglect, Creekside will truly have been revitalized. There may even be a new ski lift to service the area.
But as some of those in favour of the Nita Lake Lodge and some opposed to it pointed out at Tuesdays council meeting, all of this was done with the outdated 1994 comprehensive development plan as the authority. The Whistler 2002 document provides some guiding principles and an interim development strategy was adopted to deal with the Nita Lake Lodge proposal, but in the words of acting-mayor Caroline Lamont, a new comprehensive sustainability plan was needed years ago.