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Village design guidelines moving toward consensus

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The municipality and village merchants appear to be working toward a consensus on retail streetscape guidelines in the village.

Approximately 65 people turned out for the Whistler Village Enhancement workshop Jan. 31 in the conference centre, where a questionnaire with draft guidelines was distributed.

"We’ve had some questionnaires returned and there are some consistencies," Mike Kirkegaard, senior planner for the municipality, said this week. "There are some specific issues some people have, but on the whole it’s been pretty positive. I think people are fairly happy we’re going in this direction.

A review of design guidelines in the village was sparked by village designer Eldon Beck several years ago. Beck thought the town’s approach to signs and other design elements for individual businesses had produced a homogenous look. He advocated more creativity and individuality be allowed with signs, storefronts, awnings and merchandise displays.

At the same time a need to upgrade some of the older buildings in the village became apparent.

Municipal planning staff held a public meeting on village enhancement more than a year ago. They followed that up with a series of one-on-one meetings with individual business owners and have also worked with a number of committees and businesses, such as the Delta Whistler Resort which is undergoing a new paint scheme and other visual updates.

"I think people are appreciative of what we’re doing," Kirkegaard said. "We’ve tried not to hold up individual projects."

He added there is a lot of pressure for guidelines and bylaws governing things such as clothing and equipment racks and business "props," but suggested the whole process was starting to come to a consensus.

Questionnaire responses are still being tabulated and will be reviewed with consultants hired by the municipality. That feedback will eventually be compiled in a reference or guide book for businesses.

Prior to that, however, the results will go to the municipality’s design panel, likely in mid-March. The final guidelines should go to council sometime in April, along with bylaw revisions.

"We hope this will streamline future minor development permits and those sorts of things," Kirkegaard said.

"I think it’s been a pretty positive process overall."

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