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Mayor defends community cultural plan

Council plans to hold workshop with staff as plans near completion

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Amid the hype and enthusiasm for the new Whistler Community Cultural Plan, a lone voice is speaking out about its relevance, and the cost of implementation.

Jim Davidson, who owns the Whistler Village Art Gallery, detailed his concerns in a letter to council this week, the same evening council accepted the final plan, which includes 31 recommendations to develop and foster community culture.

"In attempting to make a case for greatly increased spending, the report makes no substantiated claims about the dollars or benefits generated from cultural tourism to date or in the future," wrote Davidson, who couldn't be reached before deadline. "The report rarely mentions (any fact-based) proof of the economic benefit of amateur culture as an economic engine in Whistler in any significant way."

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden disagrees with Davidson's assessment of the plan.

By supporting community culture, Whistler can enrich the quality of life in the community and also build the cornerstone of the whole cultural tourism program, she said.

"The plan is not taking us down (a road) and making a left turn," said the mayor.

Many of the recommendations, she added, ought to be really easy to do. "They just require political will," she said

Davidson also pointed to the recent EPI (Economic Partnership Initiative) report, which shows just how much Whistler relies on its winter destination guests as the drivers of the economy.

"No study has indicated that these visitors significantly factor amateur arts and culture into their decision making when choosing to come to Whistler," wrote Davidson. "Yet we continue to ramp up spending on amateur arts initiatives to untested levels."

The mayor doesn't deny the impact of that winter guest but sees the value in community culture.

"There is a lot of good stuff in this report," said Wilhelm-Morden. "I'm really thrilled about it actually."

In light of the completion of the plan, as well as other critical planning documents that are almost complete, council is considering a workshop in the fall to ensure that the plans do not sit on a shelf and that recommendations are acted upon in the coming years.

Council asked to consider ban on organics in garbage

The owner of the year-old Sea to Sky Soils composting facility at Rutherford Creek has asked council to support a regional ban on organics in the waste stream.

"(It's) the biggest chunk of garbage that we haven't recycled yet," said Mateo Ocejo, of the fact that just 25 per cent of the organic waste in Whistler is removed from the garbage.

When asked what a ban would look like on the ground, Ocejo said it would really be targeted at local restaurants.

He admitted an organics ban would be difficult to enforce but it would get businesses thinking about making the change.

Unlike Whistler's $14 million composting facility, Sea to Sky Soils does not accept biosolids at its facility.

Because of that, the soil created is a "nutrient-rich" soil, which can be used in organic farming.

If some of Whistler's food waste can be diverted, Ocejo said it could create a net savings of $50,000 for the municipality because it would save Whistler shipping more garbage to the U.S. in peak periods.

No decision was made at the meeting but Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said council would consider the information as it works on its solid waste management plan.

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