There is no better time than the beginning of a new year and a new decade to reflect on the past and look ahead to the future.
It’s hard to believe it has been almost ten years since 2010. Hosting the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games brought to life a community dream first sparked in 1960. The 2010 Games were a unique time in our history, and this February and March I look forward to celebrating the anniversary of those remarkable experiences and legacies with the community.
I would also like to acknowledge another important milestone, the Whistler 2020 community vision, which was adopted in 2005. Thank you to so many people and organizations who were involved in the development and implementation of this key policy. We have seen great changes and successes, as well as new challenges, throughout this time. Whistler has always been visionary and thoughtful about planning throughout our community’s evolution. Whistler 2020 has guided a significant chapter in our community’s history and its foundation will continue to inform our community thinking.
Looking forward, our new community vision will be incorporated into the updated Official Community Plan. Once adopted in 2020, the new policy, created with extensive contributions from across the community, will guide Whistler’s next chapter of evolution.
Our municipal focus is on consistent progress toward our new community vision of being a place where community thrives, nature is protected and guests are inspired. It is a compelling vision. Community balance, climate action and housing have been identified as focus areas for this Council’s term. While I am eager to see what we can accomplish in the years to come, it is important to reflect on the progress we have made so far.
Looking back, 2019 has been a productive year for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
The Strategic Planning Commission was formed last year with the mandate to look at future community needs. The year 2020 will be significant for this group, which will work under the guidance of the new Official Community Plan and Vision.
In 2019, we continued to focus on climate action including free transit on summer weekends and the approval of free transit for high school students starting in 2020. Other initiatives included: continuing to work toward corridor-wide regional transit; the ongoing implementation of the Energy Step Code, which required the introduction of higher energy efficiency standards; FireSmart; new water bottle filling stations, and a new solid waste bylaw to further compell restaurants, hotels, businesses and multi-family housing units to compost and recycle.
Provincial funding has been secured, including a three-year Resort Municipality Initiative arrangement, as well as an increase to the Municipal Regional District Tax (MRDT Hotel Tax) collected, from two to three per cent, and a provision that permits MRDT Hotel Tax generated from online accommodation providers to fund housing.
Whistler’s supply of resident housing has expanded, with the opening of three WHA rental apartment buildings since January 2018 and an additional building in the advanced planning stages. Private development proposals were initiated last year and are now in various stages of rezoning, including a Whistler Blackcomb dormitory, Whistler Sport Legacies and Whistler Ski Club buildings, and several other developments expected to come back before Council in 2020. These new developments have the potential of adding substantial rental and owned employee housing at no cost to the community.
Some of the other notable projects and events in 2019 included the upgrade of the Emerald Estates water system, replacement of White Gold’s water main and establishment of the Community Evacuation Plan and E-Bike Policy. Planning for new Valley Trail linkages also took place in 2019, with implementation of several sections expected in 2020. Substantial work was done on the Parks Master Plan, with completion planned for next year. We also celebrated the opening of the Andrée Vajda Janyk Sports Field and hosted Roger’s Hometown Hockey and another fabulous Whistler Presents summer concert series.
I have touched on some of the highlights, but it is only a selection from a busy and productive year.
The community has accomplished so much, and our collective efforts must continue to keep Whistler a magical place.
Thanks to Council, staff, and the community for everyone’s collaborative work over the year, and I look forward to a successful and productive 2020.