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Neighbourhood made possible by tax transfer

Resort Collaborative gathers to discuss next steps in funding, growing tourism



Mayor Ken Melamed knows only too well that the beautiful new neighbourhood at Cheakamus Crossing almost never came to pass.

Whistler, which had been charged with building the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic athletes' village, simply couldn't find the money for the $161 million development. A temporary village seemed in the cards.

But after the province approved new "financial tools" for B.C. resorts in 2007, money that Whistler could use for employee housing, a neighbourhood suddenly became a possibility.

And now, three years later, it's a reality.

"Every time I come (here) it takes my breath away," said Melamed at Sunday's busy Cheakamus Crossing open house, where the community had its first, and last, glimpse of the athletes' village-cum-local neighbourhood before the 2010 Games.

"This surpassed my ability to imagine what it might look like."

Last week 12 of the 13 resort communities who were given the new monies, called the Resort Municipality Tax Transfer Program, met in Whistler to discuss their common ground.

They are called the Resort Collaborative.

And they are getting roughly $10 million every year to spend on tourism-related development such as infrastructure, amenities and services. That amounts to tens of millions of dollars pumped into B.C. resorts by 2011, an initiative that goes a long way in meeting Premier Gordon Campbell's goal of doubling tourism by 2015.

The two-day conference in Whistler was a chance to not only discuss how these resort communities will create a common reporting system on how they are spending their money, but also to share their experiences as unique resort communities and the challenges, and benefits, that poses.

"There is strength in the collective voice, in the collaborative," said Mayor Melamed.

"We don't see ourselves in competition with B.C. resorts. We see ourselves in collaboration."

Some of those common issues are things that Whistler tackled years ago, like affordable housing. As such, it has a wealth of knowledge to share.

"Part of the opportunity for us isn't just the funding but it's the opportunity to discuss things with other communities who have similar issues and to share some of that," said Deanne Steven, CEO for Tourism Rossland.

While the money, the long-sought-after financial tools that Whistler lobbied for years to get, is extremely important, there is a power in the collective voice. The collaborative is a way for resorts to channel expertise, identify issues, and perhaps, lobby for things in their interest.

"I think people are starting to see the benefits other than the money," said Bill Barratt, the Resort Municipality of Whistler's chief administrative officer.