Since the 1980’s the Zen Family has owned a 77 acre site, of interconnected wetland and upland ecosystem, located in between Creekside and Function Junction. This site, which is now Whistlers largest intact upland wetland ecosystem, is the site for which development rights are being sought to build Whistler International Campus (WIC).
Since the 1980’s the landowners have sought various means of upzoning the lands. In 2001 when areas of the wetlands on the site were assigned as PAN (Protected Areas Network) there was a public hearing where the landowners own representative details the ongoing trail of proposals and legal threats. Land trades and purchase offers have been made and refused.
The proponents of the WIC proposal will point to the environmental assessments they have commissioned regarding the suitability of the site for development. These reports acknowledge that development should be restricted to the upland areas. However as with any debate it is up to individuals to absorb information and evaluate recommendations presented from both sides of that debate. Consideration also needs to be given to the specifics of our local context, as a community that has lost over 70% of it’s wetlands and where the health of many more (including this site) have been impacted by surrounding developments.
For ease of reference we are posting the following reports, commissioned by the developer. We have also raised a number of points in relation to each of these reports.
This 16 page report provides 11 pages of text relaying eleven recommendations for consideration of the environment in a proposal for WIC. These recommendations can be grouped as follows:
- One relates to ensuring ongoing monitoring of the wetlands
- One relates to construction of an interpretive trail through the wetlands
- Five relate to different ways to integrate environmental issues (such as climate change) into course offerings.
- Meaning there are only four recommendations specifically relating to reducing the impact of a university development. For example, #1 highlights ‘Do not build any infrastructure on the wetlands or associated riparian zones’ (As legally required).
The link above provides the 2005 report completed by Cascade Environmental and as currently available on the WIC website. The report pre-dated the public unveiling of the university concept and was later updated in 2012. According to the methodology in the updated report, Cascade spent a total of 14 days on site since 2003 (3 days in 2003, 4 in 2004, 5 in 2007 (relating to Riparian Area Regulation Assessments) and 2 days in 2012). All 14 days fell between the months of October – March (i.e. during Fall/Winter months).
Full environmental assessment will only be required if the WIC development is allowed to enter the re-zoning process so the above report is understandably a light touch evaluation, relying heavily on inference from other areas around the valley, visual assessments and simple tests. The condensed time period of the assessment and a lack of time spent on site in spring / summer raises concerns regarding evaluation of the sites species biodiversity as well as it’s habitat value (including to migratory species).
The municipally-led assessments of Whistler’s environment, through the Terrestrial Ecosystem Mapping and Protected Area Network strategies, recognize the importance of many areas on the proposed development site as well as the interconnection of the entire site. Both of these strategies are founded upon years of research and community consultation.
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