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Whistler! What’s your future?



Fundamental questions asked at weekend open house

Just how sacred is Whistler’s cap on development?

That’s the burning question that needs to be answered by the community in the next 10 days.

If they decide the cap isn’t sacred, then the community has to ask itself another tough question. Where would Whistler put any new development?

The answers to those two questions will determine Whistler’s future for generations to come.

Now everyone in the community is being asked to add their two cents in a simple questionnaire, which will guide planners as they map out Whistler’s future.

"What’s very important to us at this point in time is that we get as much input as we can," said Municipal Administrator Jim Godfrey.

Almost a year and a half ago the municipality launched a public consultation process called Whistler. It’s Our Future , where the community was asked to lend a hand in carving out Whistler’s path over the next 20 years.

After the launch the community helped put together a list of criteria for a successful and sustainable resort community. Then a year passed where consultants and municipal staff were hard at work, piecing together the information and creating visions for the future.

Now there are five future scenarios on the table.

In each scenario Whistler is pictured in the year 2020 based on the decisions made in 2003.

Only one scenario, known as Future One, has a Whistler that stays true to the cap on development, which was envisioned by planners long ago.

The four remaining scenarios can each provide between 6,000 and 7,000 bed units of resident housing for Whistler employees, either on Crown land within the existing corridor, in the Callaghan Valley or on a mixture of private and Crown land.

Eckhard Zeidler who was one of the first community members to go through the workbook and pick a preferred future for Whistler was pleased the process gets right to the heart of the matter of resident housing and affordability. He calls the workbook an excellent piece of work.

"Most of the scenarios indicate that the days of building market housing and expensive new homes is pretty much drawing to a close, which is quite a turn for this community," he said.

"And the emphasis that’s being put on resident housing in most of the scenarios, in almost all the scenarios, I see that as just being extremely positive for this resort and for the future."

Resident housing has become a critical component of Whistler’s future because the housing boom of the past decade has driven Whistler’s real estate off the charts for the average person. Now when employees retire or sell their market homes, new employees are not able to buy them. More often than not the homes are bought by second homeowners from around the world, who spend a few weeks each year in the resort. It’s a problem more commonly known as "leakage." If things continue in this fashion it is assumed 75 per cent of market bed units that currently house employees in Whistler will be lost by the year 2020. If there is no new resident housing to replace that lost housing more people will be commuting from bedroom communities to work in Whistler.

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