Sarah Rush For Council
Here are the areas I believe are a priority if Whistler is to remain both a thriving local community and tourist resort. I believe it is time to think holistically when dealing with what are totally interconnected, interdependent issues. Housing, transport, business and climate change are all linked and one change affects another.
Housing - Back to a Whistler being a place to call home?
Whistler’s tourism-based economy complicates the housing picture, but there still needs to be solutions found which provide affordable rental and ownership accommodation for individuals and families who make Whistler their home.
Whistler is losing the middle ground - this needs to change, urgently and decisively.
Whistler is no longer affordable to many who know it as home. As more previously long-term rentals get pushed into nightly or high priced staff rentals the rental picture for new people wanting to move to Whistler to work and settle isn't just bleak, it's dire. That, coupled with more houses which once belonged to people living in Whistler being bought and left vacant is creating a housing scenario that Whistler needs to halt in its tracks.
In the 90's the concern was that tourist accommodation in the town needed to be preserved as a priority.
Move to 2022 and the picture has changed. Tourists book differently, want different types of accommodation and now residential properties are being switched to tourist accommodation and taken out of the local rental mix. The balance has changed and now Whistler needs residential not tourist accommodation.
The RMOW needs to respond quickly and decisively or risk becoming a town just comprising tourist beds, "staff" accommodation, empty investment properties and nowhere for families and businesspeople, the foundation of Whistler to live in.
The local community is getting squeezed out.
I will work for a rethink about what housing is needed at 4500 Northlands to ensure there are housing options for locals - highest and best use for all developable land. The Northlands needs all types of housing, condos townhouses staff, rental and to purchase but also it will need community facilites, such as Medical offices and a community centre to use as a sports facility and community gathering space. I would be in favor of assited living in there too as it is near the town centre.
I really feel that Vail needs to be taken up on it's comment in 2017 about providing more staff accommodation. With Vail only providing around a third of the accommodation their employees need there is a lot of room to improve on that. That would free up houses being used as dormhousing for 8-10 employees (in a 3-4 bed house) It really isn't accpetable to bring young people to Whsitler and not be able to give them decent accommodation.
Encourage and support Local Businesses
A thriving community needs to be able to survive and supports itself aside from tourists. A complete community has to comprise and protect all the business's that a community needs to work, play and carry on day to day life. That means all workers/employees and employers of every description need to be able to find a place to live. Businesses are struggling in the off season to find employees and often need to shut meaning locals lose access to local services and restaurants. Local businesses frequently find it hard to get employees and often have to get people from Squamish of Pemberton. Sometimes the only trades available must come from outside of Whistler. As a business owner I know this adds costs and inconvenience. Working on housing solutions will help local businesses grow and be profitable leading to a happy thriving local community.
The design of Whistler center as a tourist accommodation only, whilst attractive, actually goes against the 21st century urban planning rule of creating urban centers to work and live. This means that staff and workers servicing the businesses and tourist accommodation mostly can't walk to work. Sustainable transportation policies would encourage and provide public transport for workers to get to their place of work. Further avenues I want to explore - Is there a need for special electric buses from Squamish to reduce emissions or should there be enough housing in Whistler for employees so only local buses are needed? If Whistler is to reduce its emission targets for 2030 would more people using public transport achieve this? Would cheaper/free buses encourage enough bus usage and reduce car usage enough to be cost effective when thinking holistically.
What about a Handi Dart service.
There are many options on the table to encourage more transit usage but the rpice and frequency are the top determining factors for most people.
What do we do about the droves of tourist vehicles (often large engine trucks in summer) spewing out pollution? I will be advocating for more climate friendly transit options.
Mitigating Climate Change
We have only one planet. I understand the need for economic growth but as climate change hits BC harder every year, I will continue to be an advocate for sustainable planning to preserve Biodiversity, preserve our natural capital and help Whistler mitigate the effects of climate change. It can be done. We can lead by example even if the results seem small, Whistler can and should take steps to protect it's natural assets. After all they are Whistler's lively hood. We should not just sit by and think that changes in Whistler will not make a difference.
Eight helicopters are bucketing water as part of firefighting operations at the Chetamon Mountain wildfire.(Parks Canada)
In a nut shell
I recognize that Whistler, as it matures, faces many challenges It needs to listen to many different ideas and perspectives to ensure it thrives, survives and continues to be a local community as well as a resort. Outdated ideas and policies will not serve Whistler well today, nor will they successfully led it into the future. We should use the possibility of the olympics to ensure that the community gets the extra housing it needs in that package.