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WB Renaissance discussions ongoing

Brownlie talks Renaissance, Vail and more at chamber luncheon

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Whistlerites will have to wait a little longer before any more specifics around Whistler Blackcomb (WB) Renaissance are revealed.

Though conversations are ongoing between WB, local First Nations and the province, few details are known about how those conversations have gone so far.

"I would say that I believe that we're making really good progress, and we hope that we're able to bring us together in the near future, but it is a long-term agreement, it is important to all of the parties involved, and we have to make sure that's right for everybody," WB COO Dave Brownlie told chamber members at a luncheon on Dec. 1.

Asked in a follow-up email if the company could detail how the meetings have gone with local First Nations and the government or when people might expect to see some physical changes in regards to the project, a WB spokesperson said there are no additional details to share at this time, and that there will be no noticeable changes until WB renews its master development agreements with the province.

The updated master agreements were submitted to the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources in 2013.

The ministry is working with WB and the Squamish and Lil'wat Nations in reviewing the master plan updates, but there are no definitive timelines for decisions or approvals, ministry spokesperson Greig Bethel said in an email.

"The 2013 master plan updates are the final versions that the Mountain Resorts branch has reviewed," he said.

"Master plans are conceptual in nature and do not contain the level of detail that is now available for the expanded Renaissance project plans. The expanded Renaissance plans will also need to be incorporated into the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) official community plan."

The RMOW's updated community plan — squashed by the B.C. Supreme Court in 2014 due to a failure to properly consult local First Nations — remains a work in progress.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden couldn't commit to a solid timeline, but said there may be news to share on the OCP in the next six to nine months.

Reached for comment by email, Lil'wat political chief Dean Nelson said there has not been any further discussion on the Renaissance project.

The Squamish Nation did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.

The Renaissance project could add another 150 to 200 jobs to the community, Brownlie said at the luncheon, and WB will be looking at ways to house the added employees.

"My guess is that we're going to have to make sure that the accommodation is available for those folks, and we're prepared to do that," Brownlie said in response to a question from the crowd, wondering why WB's Renaissance project makes no mention of housing.

"I think that if you look at the history of this community, WB has done certainly more than its fair share of building both employee housing and resident-restricted housing, and we know as a community that challenge is in front of us.

"We're working on the Mayor's Task Force, as well, to be a part of that solution. We're also working on some things internally."

Another lunch attendee asked if WB has a strategy concerning increased greenhouse gases, or net-zero construction in regards to the Renaissance project.

"Our team will be very involved as we go into the detailed design and looking at all the ways (we can increase sustainability), whether it's water usage, whether it's energy, whether it's CO2 emissions, we're going to do all the things that we can in a practical nature to manage those to the best of our ability," Brownlie said.

"Can it be zero? I'm not going to commit to that up here today just yet, but we have a lot of work to do, (and) it definitely is a high priority for us."

In regards to the acquisition of WB by Vail Resorts, Brownlie said the two companies share similar values around community and environment.

"I think that's important that... we have a mountain resort company that has beliefs and values that are really consistent with our own. They are in this business only — the mountain resort business — and they are in it for the long term," he said.

"This truly is the coming together of two great, strong companies with great assets, and ultimately we will be stronger together."

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