Clustered development planned in south Whistler 

Sensitive wetlands would not be disturbed by project

The details of a large development project opposite Spring Creek are now on the table and proponents want to begin negotiations with the municipality.

Tuesday night’s open house on the development of the Alpha Creek Lands (known as the Zen lands after owner John Zen) was a way to kick start those discussions and get community feedback on the development proposal.

Twenty-nine members of the public came out to hear what’s being proposed by OKA Holdings for the 77-acre site north of Function Junction.

Some, such as former Whistler alderman Garry Watson, see the site as a good way to fill out Whistler south and the utilize the area’s infrastructure, such as the Spring Creek Elementary School.

"It is about time this site was given a proper evaluation and assessment for development, especially for employee housing, given the school and Spring Creek development across the highway," wrote Watson on his comment form.

Plans for the site include several small "clusters" of development. The first phase would be a mixed-use cluster made up of employee housing townhouses and apartment-style buildings. There would also be some commercial opportunities here and live/work options for residents.

When the site is fully developed over the long term, the other clusters could include more employee housing units and potentially some market units. The site is only zoned for four single family homes now.

A state of the art centre for sustainability is also part of the project, which can showcase Whistler’s sustainability initiatives to the world.

One of the main hurdles for the developers is the public perception that the 77-acre site is all sensitive wetlands. Studies from Cascade Environmental show not all the land is environmentally sensitive.

Moreover, the developers want to secure 75 per cent of the land as park or wetlands, only impacting 19 acres with development.

"The goal is to have these wetlands not know that we are here," said Mark Holland, co-founder and principal of Holland Barrs, a planning and consulting firm specializing in sustainability.

How big or small the development ultimately ends up being is still up for discussion.

"We’re here to talk to the municipality," said architect Peter Lang with IBI Group.

"We need to find out what they’re going to ask from us."

The developer is in the business of rental housing and would like to build rental employee housing units. But not at the capped Whistler Housing Authority rate.

In the preliminary rezoning submission it states:

"The rental rates set out by the WHA are, however, out of step with the cost of development in Whistler… OKA Holdings is willing to negotiate these rental rates with the RMOW and or accept market bed unit compensation."

The proponents also say the project could be a temporary media village during the 2010 Olympics. Right now the media are set to be housed in temporary trailers near Function Junction.

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