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whistler border expansion

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By Loreth Beswetherick Intrawest has made a formal application to the province to expand the Whistler Mountain ski area boundary by about another 300 to 400 hectares to the south. The expansion lands have been a part of Whistler Mountain’s master plan dating back to 1982. The area includes the Kyber bowl, part of the Whistler Interpretative Forest and the land needed for the Spring Creek subdivision development. It also covers an area over which the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Forests have overlapping jurisdiction and Western Forest Products has been granted a tree farm licence. The province has recognized the land as earmarked for Whistler’s proposed expansion but technically it still needs to be approved and a memorandum of agreement put in place. Alec Drysdale, senior lands officer with the B.C. Assets and Lands Corporation, said the proposed expansion area was not included in the mountain’s 1982 development agreement with the province. He said the agreement gave Whistler Mountain, and later Intrawest, veto power over any development in the proposed area. "But at this point they don’t have formal control although, in a legal sense, through the development agreement, they have influence over what else could occur in that area," said Drysdale. "One of the reasons Intrawest has applied for expansion is that it has to happen before Spring Creek can ever happen," said Drysdale. "They can’t buy that land unless the expansion is approved." Doug Ogilvy, vice president of the Intrawest Resort Development Group, said the expansion application is in the final stages of approval. "These lands have been referred to as the expansion lands since they were identified in the early ’80s but the feeling from B.C. Assets and Lands is that it is appropriate to go through the hoops and the formal notification period," said Ogilvy. He said the lands include the proposed day skier base to the south. He said if no surprises come up through the notification period, the application is a mere formality. Doug Forseth, senior vice president of operations for Whistler-Blackcomb, said the application is part of the long-term planning process that will include a new day skier base. He said the Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy, which includes the Spring Creek subdivision, is not really an issue in the expansion application. "That land is not part of the conflict where there is dual jurisdiction higher up on the mountain. That is just BCAL land so we would do a normal option and take that down. That’s not an issue. Spring Creek could move ahead without it." said Forseth. "We work a number of years ahead on our planning for lifts and runs and facilities and we are now getting into that time frame where we want to get this thing cleared up and make sure we can continue without losing a step." Forseth said the expansion application should be approved in "a matter of weeks now." But Drysdale said that may not be the case. "It may not happen in a couple of weeks. Maybe that is what Intrawest would like and that is what the municipality would like but we have our process to follow and review it," he said. Currently watershed assessments are being done in the area to see how much development the land can sustain. "What has to be in place is a memorandum of understanding between the mountain, Intrawest and the Ministry of Forests because some of the expansion of the controlled recreation area has an overlap with provincial forest," said Al Columbo of the B.C. Assets and Lands Corporation. "The application is also referred to other government agencies — the RMOW, the Ministry of Highways, Ministry of Environment, Fish and Wildlife, Water — they have some issues or could have issues they may want to bring forward," said Columbo. "It could be that certain things need to occur before water licences are issued, for example. They may need a watershed management plan, that sort of thing." Columbo said First Nations consultation is also required. Last week BCAL advertised for public input. Drysdale said he can’t say when the expansion will likely be approved. "Just the sheer size of the project... getting new maps and sketches and so forth. It all takes a lot of time. We are not moving slowly. We are moving at a good pace but we are moving carefully and responsibly," said Drysdale. "Whistler Mountain is one of the biggest players in the province and what happens with Whistler Mountain of course will set a precedent." One of the conditions that must be met before final municipal approval of the Whistler South CDS is a contractual agreement between Intrawest and BCAL for the purchase of the Spring Creek lands, if title has not been obtained by Intrawest before adoption is considered. Intrawest must also receive confirmation from BCAL that the Crown corporation will allow for construction and servicing of the school site and the school building in Spring Creek even if BCAL still owns the land, and that title for School District ownership of the land will be processed by May 1, 2000.

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