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OCP update process has smooth sailing

Pre-draft to be completed by March; first draft for council by April



The Official Community Plan update process is right on track and council should see the first draft by mid-April - one year after the project lifted off.

"Many communities take you know, 30 months to multiple years to update an OCP," said Kevin Damaskie, sustainability coordinator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

"We have done a lot in a very short time and it's amazing to see the community and staff rally behind keeping (this project) on track."

The community's commitment to this project is why RMOW staff has been able to make as much progress as they have so far, Damaskie said.

Over the last three weeks, eight working groups made up of Whistler locals have met for three-hour sessions to discuss and provide feedback on policy statements drafted from information pulled from the community during the OCP open house sessions in the fall and the Backyard Brainstorm sessions last summer.

Each group focused on the six chapter areas - which include economic viability, transportation and infrastructure, climate action, quality of life, land use and development, and energy and resources.

Land use and development was broken up into three separate meetings because, since the OCP is a land use plan first and foremost, there is a more to cover in this area.

Last week, Damaskie met with the biggest working group - 50 people ­- to discuss growth management, covering how and where Whistler will grow, understanding what has already been approved for development and what the potential is.

"That was a great conversation and a really, really energetic meeting because people are for the first time getting to understand and comment on our resort community in terms of its ultimate planned growth, which we have actually met," he said.

He added, "Now the opportunity is to be as smart as possible by continuing to maintain reasonable development within our existing footprint and in support of our resort community vision and values," he said.

What RMOW staff have come to understand through this process so far is that this OCP update is not about changing the course of Whistler but staying true to the rigorous planning for the community set out in past OCPs.

Damaskie said the community is only successful if they stick to the rigorous planning, and not being shaped by external forces, i.e. a poor global economy.

"We've really heard from the community over the last 10 months is that this community, in spite of itself and in support of its ongoing success, has done so by having very rigorous planning and no matter what anybody says and no matter what people say the external forces are in the world, we're sticking to that plan," he said.

Part of this process is to maintain the Whistler2020 vision of 75 per cent of Whistler's workforce living in town. Damaskie said that number is currently at 78 per cent.

All of that input will now go to the RMOW staff, which will write the first draft of the OCP update. A pre-draft will be presented at a broad community meeting, which Damaskie is hoping to schedule for March 19, though "it's not set in stone." He said that it will happen at least one month before the first draft goes to council in order to give the community another chance to review, comment and give feedback on it.