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Feature - Balancing the ledger

Council accomplishments and… works in progress

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Indeed planning has been emphasized at municipal hall in recent years. This has led to the development of a transportation plan, a village enhancement plan, a cultural plan and an environmental strategy, all of which are based on principles identified in the Whistler 2002 document.

While the reports and strategies have been piling up, council has also made some important policy decisions in the last three years that will shape Whistler’s future. Among these are adoption of The Natural Step principles and efforts to control development on large tracts of land.

Council also established guiding principles for Whistler’s participation in the Olympic bid. The Oct. 21 council meeting will be entirely devoted to discussion of the Olympic bid, which is expected to finally be endorsed by a majority of council. The timing is ironic.

Six years ago Stewart Glen, noted local thespian and hockey goaltender, was a candidate for mayor. Much of Glen’s platform was built on the then-wacky notion that Whistler should bid to host the Olympics in order to get the affordable housing, cultural facilities and other legacies the town needed. Glen finished sixth among the six mayoralty candidates that year, garnering a total of 28 votes.

Today the Olympic bid and the legacies expected from the province, regardless of whether the bid is successful or not, are a big part of Whistler’s future. The athletes village and land bank in the Callaghan Valley are expected to be part of the long-term solution to affordable housing. New "financial tools" – the authority for the municipality to impose a new tax – have also been discussed with the province, but Victoria has yet to make a commitment.

New financial tools are something the municipality has been counting on for some time. One of the first things the new council did after the 1996 election was tour American resorts and study the revenue streams available to those towns. What they found was that American resorts are less dependent on property taxes and that a substantial portion of their revenue comes from a resort tax on goods and services.

Whistler council and municipal staff returned from that tour with the intention of putting together a case to take to Victoria that would show how Whistler needs a similar revenue stream, one that is tied to the success of the resort. That need would appear to have grown over the last six years as development has slowed and municipal revenue from development cost charges has dwindled. This, of course, is a consequence of Whistler’s self-imposed cap on development.