Resort planners watching Whistler When planners from ski resorts all across North America sit down, they often start to talk about problems common to many of them — inadequate employee housing, over inflated real estate values, lack of a community identity and the social problems that arise from all of the above. Whistler municipal planner Caroline Hicks recently returned from The Boom in Mountain Living Conference in Keystone, Colo. June 7-10. Hicks says nearly 400 planners from across North America were at the conference and participants from the large Colorado resorts are dealing with the social fallout from planning mistakes they have made in the past. When they hear of the proactive steps Whistler is taking to make sure those problems don't happen here, the other resort planners stop and listen. "They are amazed that we still have a strong sense of community here and I think that is one of the things we have to work very hard to maintain," Hicks says. "Other resorts have lost that community feeling and the overall well-being of the resort goes downhill." Creating quality, affordable housing for employees must be one of the highest priorities here to ensure Whistler's workforce does not move out of the valley in search of affordable housing. Hicks says one of the most innovative sessions at the conference was called "A Vision for a Mountain Resort Community." The discussion came out with a draft statement which she calls "mountain town nirvana." The statement says: Our ideal mountain town is built, above all, on values. At the same time, it is realistic in its understanding and embrace of economic well-being. It is made up of active, involved and well-informed citizens who share a vision of sustainable ecological, social and economic systems. Personal and Social Values The members of the community find common ground in a set of values that are the foundation of all activity. Among these are open and respectful dialogue, trustfulness, diversity and inclusiveness, social equality, protection of the environment and adherence to the concepts of never-ending education, collaborative community decision-making and the common good. Economic Values A sustainable, year-round economy with stable jobs results from our community's belief in business and industrial diversity, balanced growth and agreed limits to development. The leading economic force in the community, the ski company, works for open communication and collaboration with the town. In turn, the community benefits from the resort's broad employee base and the hundreds of thousands of visitors it attracts. Aesthetic Values Set in the midst of extraordinary natural scenery, our community is dedicated to preserving and protecting the beauty of our surroundings through intelligent planning and focused development. At the centre of town, a pedestrian environment is enhanced by quality architectural and landscape design, incorporating green spaces, flower gardens, and dedicated cycle and in-line skate paths. Strict zoning and land-use rules preserve the natural environment, promote building with mountain-appropriate materials like timber and stone, and restrict sprawl. Community Values Our town has created a variety of services that foster excellence. Quality education is available for all ages. Housing is a right of all working citizens, and much of it is subsidized to provide in-town housing for the service sector. A low polluting public transport system connects all areas, including the free parking garages. Cultural needs are addressed in an active arts centre, while a broad range of health and wellness care is dispensed at the medical centre. Safety and serenity are values protected by a citizen-police partnership that works to prevent problems before they happen. Recreational facilities are a high priority among this exercise-minded populace and the town has provided for the needs of the public through public playing fields, gyms and other school facilities, and a variety of tracks and trails. Also, the ski company encourages citizens to ski as much as possible through affordable season ski passes and ski clubs for locals. Our Place in the World Our citizens cherish the unique "sense of place" — a town soul — that we believe supports stability and sustains the town over generations. While we welcome skiers and other lovers of the outdoors and our mountain beauty, we are aware of the need to balance the influence from outside with the strength of our own values.