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London Drugs issue online

Retail study to be presented at open house Monday

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“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

– Andy Warhol, 1968

We have seen the future, and while not everyone is famous — yet — thanks to the Internet nearly everyone and every issue has their own website or blog.

And so it is with London Drugs’ proposed store in Whistler Village.

Jim Watts, a supporter of the London Drugs proposal, has started a website — londondrugsyes.com — with the goal of getting 1,000 names on a petition in support of the store.

“My goal is to mobilize the silent majority,” Watts said this week, referring to a survey by the Mustel Group that found 77 per cent of Whistler residents who have an opinion on the subject support a London Drugs store in the village.

“I’ve heard some councillors say they haven’t heard from the ‘yes’ side, only the ‘no’ side. So I think it’s important that they hear.”

Watts said last year’s successful counter petition that led to the scrapping of plans to upgrade Whistler’s sewage treatment plant through a public-private partnership was the catalyst for his website.

Whistler council had been waiting for the results of a retail study before dealing with the London Drugs application. The retail study has been available in draft form since last month and will be the subject of a pubic open house on Monday, Jan. 29, 5-7:30 p.m. in the Telus Conference Centre.

When the draft study was presented to council in December Mayor Ken Melamed said it was “…hard to find much in the retail strategy that supports the approval of London Drugs.”

The study recommends that no new retail space be created excepted for existing zoned and undeveloped space.

However, Watts feels the retail study is flawed — for example most surveys were done in the village, which he suggested would mean few residents were surveyed — and it doesn’t address resident affordability, one of the 16 strategies in the municipality’s Whistler2020 document.

And within the Whistler2020 document, the affordability strategy has little in the way of an action plan.

“The only thing they have is community greenhouses and expansion of the Re-use It Centre,” Watts said of the affordability strategy’s action items. “But you look at their stats on people living below the poverty threshold. Fifty-nine per cent of single seasonal residents have incomes below that threshold. Our seasonal employees are important and we’re not doing anything about affordability.”

Watts charged that municipal staff is not asking the right questions, “they are fitting the planning model to what they want. In other words, I’d say there is no plan at all.”

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