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Heritage policy essentially toothless By Chris Woodall Whistler's heritage buildings and sites can disappear because there isn’t really anything in the municipality's power to stop a keen developer. While there is a heritage policy in Whistler's Official Community Plan (OCP), the municipality can use it to "ask" developers to save a heritage structure or consider its significance, but that's about it, says Heidi MacPherson, municipal planner. The developer can be delayed while a heritage site — it could be a building, an historic First Nations presence such as pictographs, or a significant geological feature — is investigated and inventoried, but if the developer can't be convinced to protect the site, then Whistler could be saying good-bye to it. Whistler is on the verge of losing several buildings that have been a part of this resort's history, including the Whistler Mountain Gondola Barn, and three smaller buildings on the opposite side of Whistler Creek. Intrawest needs to make room for its Whistler Station developments, including moving the Whistler Ski Club structure. But in the process, Intrawest says it will incorporate elements of the Gondola Barn in the new Dusty's entertainment complex, and will keep one of the smaller buildings for the ski club's use as a dormitory for visiting ski clubs. "It becomes a negotiating process," MacPherson says of similar arrangements when heritage issues come up. "Having a heritage policy entrenched in the OCP was a big step (back in 1991). It allows us to ask the developer for further studies of heritage sites so at least we have a record of what was there," she says. Keeping a record is enough in some cases. The former Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. administrative offices in Creekside may have been there for many years, but they have no particular architectural value of themselves, unless there's something special about dirt-brown trailers with flat roofs. "It gets very difficult to determine the heritage value of a building," MacPherson explains. "The significance may not just be the building, but the site and the memories that go with the site." The general rule of thumb is how best to tell the story of a place's history, MacPherson says. "If the best way is to save the building, then we would want to protect it." Protecting Whistler's heritage can also affect the look of new construction so that it takes community history into account. Intrawest's Whistler Station plans are a case in point, MacPherson says. "One of the comments from municipal staff was that Intrawest should get a heritage consultant to make sure the architecture reflects early Whistler, not just pioneer or rural B.C.," she says of one part of Whistler Station that is to make use of varied facades on a cluster of buildings along Lake Placid Road. "If you take a look at the early cabins that people have tried to maintain, there are aspects that should be incorporated into the Whistler Station design," MacPherson says, noting in particular Whistler's gothic A-frame houses, the "mushroom house" in Emerald Estates and others that have particularly — and perhaps peculiarly — Whistleresque features. It may be difficult, however, for Intrawest to get its hands on the sort of wine red shag rug that many Whistler houses of a certain vintage seem to have.

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