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Input sought on plans for village facelift

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Sprucing up the overall image of an aging village is key in the face of mounting rivalry from other resorts ranging from Vail to Fernie, and everyone will need to work together if Whistler is to sustain its world class appeal.

That is the message that will come from two experts at a workshop to be held by the municipality on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

The workshop will be a chance for the village retail community, property owners and anyone else interested, to have their say on the municipality’s proposed village enhancement guidelines.

These guidelines will likely be finalized and presented to council for adoption by March. They will also result in some bylaw changes, said RMOW senior planer Mike Kirkegaard.

The guidelines will cover a range of often controversial issues including signage; storefront design; outdoor clothing racks; patios and awnings; noise from outdoor speakers; washrooms: neon or televisions in store windows; landscaping and property maintenance; and props or beacons – like a plastic cow or river raft – designed to attract customers.

"We want to address those issues so that we can have equitable and consistent enforcement of our bylaws," said Kirkegaard.

The RMOW has retained Bob Inwood of Mainstreet Consultants in Nelson and Chris LeTourner of Thomas Consultants of Vancouver to help with the project. They will both be making presentations at the workshop.

Inwood, an urban designer, has been involved in main street programs for several communities throughout B.C. including Revelstoke. He has an interest in fine arts and public art and works in conjunction with crafts people, noted Kirkegaard.

Inwood is developing the specific guidelines for Whistler Village and he will illustrate examples of what is trying to be achieved at the workshop.

LeTourner is a retail expert who does work for property owners, developers and communities. He has done work in Park City, Salt Lake City and other American resorts.

Kirkegaard said LeTourner recently made an inspiring presentation for the Urban Development Institute in Vancouver on hot retail concepts and retail trends. "I sat in on that workshop and thought, oh boy, here is the perfect guy to bring to Whistler to help address these issues we are dealing with, like the props and displays and why a cow and not something else. He refers to these things as beacons for drawing customers and he will talk about what is successful in other communities and the success criteria for other retailers," noted Kirkegaard. "He will help communicate the overall importance of how everyone is in this together."

The Jan. 31 workshop follows one held in June last year where Kirkegaard told stakeholders that Whistler village was looking a little tired. "We are facing competition… we can’t afford to walk around with blinkers on," he told the group of around 60 people.

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