19 Mile Creek makes deadline
Project approved in time to allow work this year
By Bob Barnett
Gravel excavation in 19 Mile Creek began Tuesday morning, after Whistler council voted 3-1 Monday night to adopt bylaws which permit the controversial employee housing project of the same name to go ahead.
Monday’s decision gave 19 Mile Creek Housing Ltd. exactly one week to do in-stream work on the project this year. The "window" allowed by the Ministry of Environment to do work in fish-bearing streams is Aug. 15-31.
In-stream work on 19 Mile Creek must take place over two consecutive years, meaning that if the housing project wasn’t approved Monday it would have been set back another full year. If that had been the case 19 Mile Creek Housing Ltd. likely would have abandoned the project.
"It was basically Monday or nothing," said 19 Mile Creek Housing Ltd.’s Matthew Coté, adding it was costing the company about $15,000 a month to carry the land.
The project, which includes 60 employee townhomes, 18 employee apartment units and a market-value single family lot on a former gravel pit site behind the Alpine Meadows Market, was considered too dense for the neighbourhood by Councillor Stephanie Sloan, the only councillor who did not vote in favour of the project. Councillors Dave Kirk and Nancy Wilhelm-Morden were absent; both supported the project at third reading.
Coté said the company plans to excavate gravel from 19 Mile Creek and rough in new "riffle zones," which enhance the creek for fish spawning, by the end of the month. General site preparation and berm work will continue through September and October. Site servicing will be done this fall as weather and the municipal permit process allow. Foundation work may not begin until next spring. Coté refused to speculate on when the project would be finished.
In addition to the deadline for in-stream work, 19 Mile Creek Housing Ltd.’s financing agreement with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. expires in December, 1999.
A development covenant on the project stipulates that if development is not completed by Jan. 1, 2001 zoning reverts to the previous RR1, which prohibits the project.
First proposed two years ago, the 19 Mile Creek employee housing project has been strongly opposed by some Alpine Meadows residents on grounds that the project was too dense for the neighbourhood, did not fit with the character of the neighbourhood, would cause traffic problems and would be subject to flooding.
The project has been reduced in size, density and massing over the two years. The project also had to meet a number of conditions prior to fourth reading, including a municipal engineering consultant reviewing the work of the developer’s floodproofing consultant.
The municipal consultant recommended increased flood protection on the north bank of 19 Mile Creek, opposite the housing project. The Ministry of Environment agreed with this recommendation, which 19 Mile Creek Housing Ltd. will carry out.
A standard policy of the Ministry of Environment is to require the municipality to accept full responsibility for the operation, repair and restoration of the flood protection works. In the case of 19 Mile Creek this applies to the area from the bridge at Valley Drive down to Green Lake, including flood protection works at Whistler Secondary school.
However, a relatively new declaration by the ministry is that the municipality may not be eligible for Provincial Emergency Program funding to assist with restoration costs in the event of a flood. This policy applies to any new developments adjacent to floodways — including Whistler Creek.
Municipal staff are contesting this issue with the ministry on a municipal-wide basis. In order to proceed with the 19 Mile Creek development the municipality will sign the agreement with the ministry, but do it under protest.
Whistler received substantial PEP funds for repairs to the Fitzsimmons Creek channel following flooding in 1990.
Other conditions the 19 Mile Creek project had to meet prior to fourth reading included confirmation the project can be insured, consideration of a resident property manager for the apartment units and a municipal traffic consultant reviewing the report of the developer’s traffic consultant. All conditions were met, with the municipal traffic consultant concluding the Highway 99-Alpine Way intersection will be able to handle traffic generated by the housing project.
The Ministry of Transporation and Highways has agreed to full signalization of the intersection, but that likely won’t occur until 1999 or 2000.