Whistler’s elected officials convened for a full-day retreat Tuesday (Oct. 8) to discuss the municipality’s major planning priorities for the remaining year of council’s term.
While the priority during the first year of council’s mandate fell squarely on the RMOW’s budgeting process and fiscal accountability, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said the planning focus has shifted since then to the development and eventual implementation of four major reports that are either approved or expected for approval by the end of this year.
“What we did is we went through all four reports and their various recommendations and discussed implementation over the course of the next six to 12 months,” she said. “We didn’t make decisions or pass resolutions, but we had a very good discussion over where we’re going.”
The Community Cultural Plan, approved last month, outlined a long-term vision for the resort’s cultural development by creating experiences that are uniquely Whistler and expressing the community’s core values. It offered 31 recommendations under a number of headings.
The Learning and Education Task Force Report is aimed at buiding a strategic framework for the municipality to evaluate various potential educational opportunities that would provide a benefit to the resort. So far the report, which was made public this summer, recommended council consider around five educational opportunities to pursue proactively in the next three to five years. Several initiatives were outlined in the report, including a proposed post-secondary institute, the Whistler International Campus.
The Economic Partnership Initiative (EPI) report, which will be considered for approval at next Tuesday’s (Oct. 15) council meeting, was drafted after consultation with representatives from various sectors with the goal of building confidence in the resort economy and encouraging reinvestment in the community. A key finding from the report stressed the need to focus on destination visitors, who make up around 85 per cent of Whistler’s nearly $1-billion annual expenditure. The report also looked at ways to convert day trippers to overnight resort guests and reduce the significant business-to-business spend outside of the community.
Wilhelm-Morden said council examined ways to effectively implement the far-reaching report at Tuesday’s retreat.
“Some of these recommendations are going to require significant amounts of money to implement and it will be subject to confirmation by March of next year that we’re getting the (Resort Municipality Initiative) monies we’re expecting,” she said, in reference to Whistler’s five-year arrangement with the province. The province will provide incentive-based funding to boost tourism to the tune of over $34 million over the period, contingent on the funds being available in the provincial coffers.
The fourth report is the Recreation and Leisure Master Plan, expected to come before council next month, which outlined a 10-year vision for Whistler’s municipal parks, trails and recreational facilities. The plan seeks to maintain and enhance the resort’s existing recreational assets and consider new opportunities that present a benefit to the community. It was organized around 20 topic areas and provides over 50 directions for consideration.
The council retreat reiterated to council the commonalities between all four of the major reports, according to Wilhelm-Morden.
“The other thing that was really apparent was the synergies — we used that word probably a thousand times yesterday — between the four plans, and how things are really coming together nicely,” she said.
The mayor also highlighted the tremendous amount of work that went into the drafting of each report by municipal staff and committee members.