After years on the shelf, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is set to resume work on the community's most important guiding document.
At Tuesday's council meeting, officials voted to move forward on a long-planned update to Whistler's Official Community Plan (OCP), which was originally slated for adoption back in 2013.
Now, the RMOW is hopeful to have a revamped OCP in place in 2018 — although some councillors were wary of the quick turnaround.
The OCP is a comprehensive plan that dictates public policy across practically every facet of municipal government. After getting the green light from the province, which is required to sign off on the plan, the most recent version of Whistler's OCP was adopted by council in May of 2013. The plan hit a snag the following spring, however, when the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the province did not fulfill its duty to adequately consult with the local Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations, leaving the plan in limbo.
Now, with just months remaining in council's term, and an historic Memorandum of Understanding between the Nations, the RMOW, Whistler Blackcomb, and the province in the rear view, the municipality is eager to finish the work started years ago.
"The project is a continuation. We are not starting from scratch here with this update," said planner Mike Kirkegaard.
The updated plan will not only incorporate the thousands of hours of research and community consultation that have already gone into Whistler's OCP, but also the insights gleaned from the various municipal reports that have been released over the past several years.
"In that timeframe, there have been some changes to the external factors and economic conditions affecting the resort community," Kirkegaard said.
Quashing the plan forced the RMOW to revert back to its 1993 OCP, which has hampered municipal hall's momentum on a number of legislative fronts.
"There's been some issues working with our old OCP," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. "We've been talking about things like wildfire management, and we could be doing some of that in a more efficient way if we had our new OCP back. That's simply one example."
The RMOW is eyeing June 2018 for council's adoption and eventual referral of the OCP to Victoria. The council table was divided over the ambitious timeline, particularly due to a proposal to embed the resort's sustainability plan, Whistler2020, into the updated OCP — effectively eliminating it as a standalone document.
"Whistler2020 was developed over three years and has been in place for 12," said Coun. Jack Crompton. "I think we need more than (a few) months to build a replacement."
Officials in favour of incorporating Whistler2020 into the OCP argued it would eliminate redundancies between the two foundational documents, with much of the work outlined in the sustainability plan already woven into the RMOW's various committees and environmentally minded initiatives. (Climate targets set out in the plan will continue to be monitored.)
Coun. Sue Maxwell said she "100 per cent" disagreed with replacing Whistler2020, largely because the new OCP would not include the Natural Step, an internationally recognized definition of sustainability that forms the foundation of Whistler2020.
An amendment Maxwell introduced to keep Whistler2020 separate from the OCP was ultimately voted down following a lengthy debate. Councillors Crompton and Jen Ford supported the amendment.
CAO Mike Furey stressed that changes to the OCP can always be implemented once it receives the provincial go-ahead.
"It's not like the world stops when you put a document in place," he said.
The RMOW plans to engage residents on the drafting of the OCP update through a community forum and online survey in early February, and then again in April.