The upcoming rezoning public meeting (6 p.m. Sept. 15 at Millennium Place) on Alex Bunbury's property on Gondola Way presents a unique opportunity to deal with the deadly dangers facing pedestrians on Gondola Way.
Instead of giving all Bunbury's negotiated $400,000 contribution to the municipality for employee housing as proposed, some of this money should be used to build a long-sought sidewalk along the most treacherous stretch of this steep winding road leading in and out of the heart of Creekside.
Numerous previous attempts to get this sidewalk built to protect the hundreds of pedestrians who regularly use this road have been met with the objection that it's a private road. As such, it's up to the 180 private owners to improve it. The difficulty of getting them all to agree and sign a document makes that virtually impossible, so cars will continue to slide around those corners on the ice while pedestrians jump out of the way. Is this right for a municipality that prides itself on putting pedestrians first?
The concern that a decision to fund and build this sidewalk will create a precedent for other private roads in the valley ignores several vital points that make this a unique case:
• The direct connection between Bunbury's three Gondola Way lots and this road justifies a direct benefit to the nearby community from his zoning contribution.
• This road is a legal public right of way, and has been maintained by the municipality since 1989. It qualifies as a public amenity comparable to employee housing.
• When Bear Creek Estates was approved in 1990, the municipality allowed access along Gondola Way with no agreement from the owners and no compensation. Many of us consider this an outstanding debt owing from the municipality. That decision also sets a precedent for making municipal decisions about this road without approval of the owners.
• This road is the only access for hundreds of residents, many of them renters, including some living in employee housing, who have no cars and are forced to risk their lives daily along this road to get to the bus.
• This road is within 100 metres of a major commercial centre, a huge underground parking lot, a gondola lift, ski rental and ticket centre, a regional bus stop and several local bus stops.
• Based on steepness, curves, pedestrian traffic, proximity to commercial activity, vehicle volume and population density served, a sidewalk along Gondola Way up to Olive Terrace should be the #1 priority in Whistler's "green transportation" plan.
Gondola Way is a disaster waiting to happen. Here's a chance for the council to acknowledge this problem and seize this opportunity to solve it. We look forward to some creative leadership on this issue on Sept. 15.