A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations, Whistler Blackcomb (WB) and the provincial government is a commitment to collaboration, according to Whistler's Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey.
The agreement comes within weeks of the provincial approval of a new 60-year Master Development Agreement for WB, which took place Feb. 24.
The MOU — which is not legally binding — lists a number of key interests that the parties have agreed to explore.
"It's a demonstration of our commitment to working in partnership," Furey said in a media briefing on Thursday, April 20.
"I put my signature on behalf of council on here to say 'yes, let's keep working together, and what are some key issues?'"
The key interests: transfer of the Kadenwood Lands to the First Nations in exchange for the Emerald Lands; appropriate development opportunities at Kadenwood, South Base or other suitable locations in the Controlled Recreation Area (CRA); an approach to the value of the options lands required for the South Base opportunities, or other suitable locations in the CRA; a long-term property tax exemption for the Squamish-Lil'wat Cultural Centre; development of a management planning process with respect to Crown Lands in RMOW boundaries; First Nations' support of a new Official Community Plan (OCP) for the RMOW; recognition in the OCP of the Kadenwood, South Base or other suitable development opportunities within the CRA; and consideration from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to remove the requirement for ministerial approval of future OCPs, or amendments to them.
In regards to development, it's too early to talk specifics, Furey said.
"We haven't gone down that road in any extensive detail... it's a municipal lot now and we don't have any designated density on it at this time, but it certainly has potential," Furey said of the Kadenwood Lands.
"I think it's premature to speculate... we haven't done any swap around it. We have to understand what their interests are, and go through all those discussions."
Those discussions would likely include the finer details — things like density and proximity to the highway — and any potential development would be subject to zonings and community planning.
"We're prepared to enter into good faith negotiations and discussions to explore their interests, and in turn bring the community interests to the table," Furey said.
"We're very aware of our need to have community involvement, and particularly as we look to the future — ensuring that the community is brought along in discussions," he added.
The MOU was presented to council at its April 25 meeting.
After the presentation, Councillor John Grills thanked the RMOW team for its work on the MOU, as well as WB and the First Nations, and referred to the document as a blueprint moving forward.
"Now we roll up our sleeves and the work begins to put some of these things together," he said.
"I look forward to that work and I look forward to seeing our OCP back in place that we worked on for a number of years back in 2012 and 2013. It's great to see that and a number of other things so I'm ready to work."
Coun. Jack Crompton offered a similar thought.
"I look forward to working with the Squamish and Lil'wat nations to see the economic opportunity that's now being presented to all of our communities be taken advantage of," he said. "So, exciting days ahead."
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said that in a way, the agreement is representative of a new day.
"In another very important way it's a continuation of the relationship that we've had over the years and working towards improving that relationship and achieving new results for all of us involved with this MOU," she said.
"There will be a lot of work involved in seeing it through, but we are all prepared to get on with it."