Opinion » Maxed Out

Time to drop the rhetoric and start the debate



"I'd call him a sadistic, hippophilic necrophile, but that would be beating a dead horse."

- Woody Allen

Okay, maybe the horse wasn't dead... maybe he was just sleeping.

While it seemed the immediate response from the proponents of WhistlerU to council's completely unreasonable approach to their development plan — let's take nine months, go slow and actually engage the community and outside help to gestate this baby — was threatening to take their football and go home, Pegasus apparently had some life left in him, er, her, er, it. Whatever, this horse is still moving.

If the initial response could generously be termed petulant, the revised, more tempered response may reasonably be called piqued, paranoid and perplexing. While one may reasonably argue nine months is too long to thoroughly consider a proposal that, in one form or another has been rattling chains like a fabled chimera for more than half a decade, to claim, as the proponents have, that seven months is way more reasonable is to split the first, fine hair on the baby's head. Do I hear six and a half? Sixty days more or less is not, a $300 million development, going to scuttle.

Let's put this in perspective. The applicants have been, as they say, planning this development for six years. They've "... met with every group that invited us to give details of our proposal." That's not entirely true. While they may have met, they failed to give details of the proposal to Whistler council until a little over 60 days ago. This was a strategic decision on their part owing, at least in part, to the perception their plan wouldn't get a fair hearing under the previous mayor and council. Instead of submitting the proposal, in detail, and seeking rezoning, they chose to play a waiting game while they lobbied candidates in last fall's election, hoping to plant their seeds in more favourable soil.

Now they feel betrayed, miffed that "open for business" doesn't mean council is going to roll over and play dead or snap to approval on anything that comes their way. They want assurances their "re-zoning proposal (will) be handled like any other submitted by a landowner."

That's simply ridiculous. This isn't any other rezoning application. This isn't seeking a minor variance on density or setback or severing one parcel into two titles. This is taking a piece of land currently zoned for four McMansions and making it a piece of land zoned for a university serving 1,400-1,500 students and perhaps 600 faculty and staff. This is a proposal to fundamentally alter the strategic direction of the town from mountain resort to mountain resort and player in the private university business. It is, as the proponents themselves say, a proposal to pursue education as an economic development issue.