The Barnfield Farm proposal got its official public hearing Tuesday, and although there wasn’t much new in the way of arguments for or against, the rhetoric did grow more colourful.
"If this is approved no residence is safe. You might have employee housing in your backyard, too," Beaver Lane resident Patty Ritchie told council.
That prompted a response from Adventures West resident Milt Swanson, who said the Adventures West and Alta Lake Resort neighbourhood favoured the proposal because the residents will be neighbours, too.
"Mrs. Ritchie thinks she’s not in our neighbourhood because she lives on Beaver Lane, but she is. We’re all one neighbourhood. We favour employee housing."
Swanson said Ritchie didn’t speak for the whole neighbourhood.
"Dracula could do a better job speaking for us," Swanson said.
The Barnfield Farm proposal includes 23 single family employee housing lots and eight large market lots on five parcels owned by McDonald’s of Canada. The proposal also includes a wildlife corridor through the property, protection of wetlands and a small old growth forest and dedication of lands for park.
The land, between the Whistler Cay subdivision and Adventures West, has been the subject of many development proposals over the years, including the so-called Freestyle proposal which was rejected last year.
The Barnfield proposal, by local businessmen Jon Paine and Steve Bayly, was to have gone to public hearing May 6 but a wording error in the official notice meant that scheduled public hearing became an information meeting. At least 60 people showed up at the information meeting to present arguments for and against the proposal. Many of the same people were present for this week’s public hearing.
Tuesday, Beaver Lane resident Barry Johnston asked that a 25-foot buffer zone be included between the single family lots on Beaver Lane and the proposed employee lots.
"I think this is landmark rezoning," Johnston said. He also suggested apartment-style units would do more to remedy Whistler’s shortage of employee housing.
Crabapple Drive property owner Mitzi Montgomery said she was concerned with the speed the project was being pushed through.
"This land is too valuable to railroad through," she said. "The environmental and natural heritage are more important than paving any wetland."
Ritchie asked how council could rule on an employee housing proposal until the new affordable housing strategy is in place.
"I think you should put a moratorium on the employee housing situation until the policy is in place," she said.
All of those who spoke against the proposal said they were not opposed to employee housing.
"I’m opposed to giving up one community for another," Ritchie said.
The developers said earlier they had attempted to be sensitive to the needs of the community by putting single family lots next to existing single family lots.
While there was some opposition to the project, there were more people in favour of the proposal. Duane Jackson, a resident of the Lorimer Ridge single-family employee housing subdivision, noted many people seemed to insinuate that employee housing detracts from a neighbourhood.
"I think that’s naive — everyone contributes to the community."
Jackson said that of the 26 lots in Lorimer Ridge, 13 owners have families or have started families since development started three years ago. Jackson also noted Lorimer Ridge has been criticized because the owners were allowed to build full-sized houses on lots they bought below market value, but the small lots in the Barnfield proposal address that problem.
He further praised the Barnfield proposal for allowing buyers to build sweat equity in their homes.
"It facilitates community spirit, neighbours help each other, and that creates a strong neighbourhood," Jackson said.
Ron Stanley, a resident of Falcon Crescent, was opposed to the Freestyle proposal but says the Barnfield proposal is a good development.
"This one looks great, let’s do it, get it over with."
Council reserved decision on third reading for the project.