Opinion » Editorial


Suddenly September has become the defining moment of this council’s term in office. There are two major and controversial development issues council is dealing with this month: the proposed deal for the Decigon lands and Intrawest’s Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy, both of which have gone or will go to public hearing this month, and both are likely up for consideration of third reading at the Sept. 20 council meeting. There is also the Sept. 25 open house meeting, where two major, long-term initiatives are to be introduced to the public: the transportation strategy and the environmental strategy. Both of these strategies are huge, comprehensive frameworks to be integrated into most aspects of Whistler life and intended to guide decision-making and provide direction for years to come. The environmental strategy and the transportation strategy are tools intended to help bring about something the 150 or so people gathered for this week’s public hearing on the Decigon lands/Lot 5 deal sought — certainty. Over and over again Tuesday night speakers brought up the bed unit cap and how it was the one constant in Whistler they could count on. Some called it "sacred" and "sacrosanct." There was also some frustration with "floating" bed units, an issue that is likely to be seen more and more as Whistler gets closer to buildout. The floating bed units in question at Tuesday’s public hearing were the 590 Intrawest proposes to take from Whistler Mountain’s inventory to build a hotel on the Benchlands’ Lot E — a separate development from the Lot 5/Decigon lands deal. The bed units belong to Intrawest, acquired through its purchase of Whistler Mountain. The two mountains’ bed units have always been moveable, as opposed to most other bed units which have been allocated to specific pieces of property. The question Tuesday was shouldn’t those bed units stay with Whistler Mountain rather than Blackcomb. The issue of floating bed units and certainty is also central to the Sept. 13 public hearing on the Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy. The municipality wants a plan that shows where all of Intrawest’s remaining 1,730 bed units will be built. The Whistler South plan attempts to do that, but there could be as many as 106 bed units left "floating." Certainty is also central to the proposal to preserve the Decigon lands, better known as the Emerald Forest. As the situation stands at the moment, there is no certainty the Emerald Forest will be preserved. The proposed three way deal involving the Decigon group, Intrawest and the municipality is the only plan at present that is guaranteed to preserve the lands. There was a lot of talk Tuesday about the municipality buying or expropriating the Decigon lands. That might be an option, but the enthusiasm shown Tuesday night to fund the purchase through a tax increase is not shared by all property owners. There is also the question of whether the Decigon group, having held on to the land for 20 years, would be willing to wait a while longer while the municipality goes through the process of borrowing money for the purchase. Indications from Glenn Houghton of Decigon, prior to Tuesday, were that the ownership group probably wouldn’t be willing to wait. And you have to consider what other projects the municipality would put on hold if it did decide to borrow the money to buy the Decigon lands. It has been said many times that the only constant in Whistler is change. People are tired of that; they want some assurances, which is one reason why many are upset by the Decigon/Lot 5 deal — it violates the certainty that was associated with the bed unit cap. But while this deal, if it goes through, won’t please everyone, it will bring some assurance about the Emerald Forest’s future.

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