Building the perfect resort Two items dominated Whistler council’s regular meeting this week, if time spent discussing issues is a measure of each issue’s significance. The first was the proposed Stoltmann National Park, a 500,000 hectare piece of land which holds enormous consequences for the whole region, in terms of forestry jobs, backcountry recreational jobs, the environment, tourism, federal and provincial politics and relations among towns in the Sea to Sky Corridor. Council finally decided the issue was so sensitive and of such importance they couldn’t pass a motion until they had further information. The second item that generated extensive discussion was the Val d’Isere Restaurant’s awning. Or rather, the restaurant’s proposed awning. Back in March Val d’Isere owner Roland Pfaff submitted his preliminary application for an awning to cover part of the patio at his Town Plaza restaurant. In April Pfaff says he submitted a complete design for the awning, drawn up by his architect and designer. His landlord and strata council approved the design and then it went to the municipality’s Advisory Design Panel. After the design panel had a look at it the awning was redesigned so that the length, shape and colour scheme met with approval. The awning also met fire code regulations. The whole intent of the awning was to have it in place for the summer season. As Pfaff stated in his letter to council, "To survive, our business needs a patio in the summer that will handle both sunny and rainy weather. The awning will achieve this! Our patio business is essential to our success!" But he still isn’t permitted to put up his awning. After considerable discussion, and all council members indicating they were sympathetic to Pfaff’s plight, council voted 4-3 against granting even a temporary permit for the awning. The reason being that the municipality’s Village Enhancement Committee has yet to present its recommendations for sprucing up the village. It could be another two months before the committee completes its investigations. There is no question parts of the village could do with some upgrading. Some of the buildings need repair or at least a coat of paint, re-bar is poking through some of the concrete and steps and planters are chipped and cracked. Among the other things the Village Enhancement Committee is looking at are the proliferation of newspaper stands, clothing/bicycle/ski racks outside of shops and illegal signs. The Village Enhancement Committee will presumably come back to council with a list of recommendations and a set of guidelines for building and design improvements. In some instances those improvements can be imposed unilaterally by the municipality. In other instances it will be up to business owners or landlords to spend the money to make the improvements. This is a point which seems to have been lost. In the case of the Val d’Isere awning — or early this spring Tapley’s Pub, which wanted to make improvements to its patio — the applicants are being denied the opportunity to improve the physical state of their business, and arguably the village experience, in a timely manner because the goal posts may be moved. In Tapley’s case it was the provincial liquor laws which were changing. For Val d’Isere it’s the municipality’s own design guidelines which are floating. There is no question that a great deal of Whistler’s success is due to the comprehensive design of the village and the overall discipline imposed on the developers of each individual village parcel. But the village is most successful where some individual flare has been permitted; where architectural styles butt up against one another and where patios or shops seem to spill out into the village. When village designer Eldon Beck re-visited Whistler a couple of years ago and spoke about the need to bring life back to the village he talked about allowing some flexibility, a little spontaneity. He asked, for instance, why outdoor barbecues were prohibited in the village. He talked about allowing greater expression in signs, rather than having all the signs for businesses in the same building look the same. In short, he was asking why some things couldn’t be done, rather than prescribing bylaws and regulations that limited activities.