Given the merits of the Barnfield Farm proposal it’s not surprising that speakers in favour of the project outnumbered opponents at Monday’s public information meeting, but given Whistler’s history with employee housing projects you never know.
The proposal, by local developers Jon Paine and Steve Bayly, is for 23 single family employee housing lots and eight large market housing lots on five parcels between Whistler Cay and Adventures West. This type of proposal is crucial to Whistler’s future, particularly as the valley approaches buildout and the local economy becomes less reliant on growth and more dependent on well-run small businesses. The 23 employee housing lots, which will be restricted to a maximum of 1,800 square feet, will house families that have decided to build careers in Whistler.
Among the smattering of objections raised at Monday’s meeting was the suggestion that if the houses remain below market value (and council gave its assurance that its intent was to keep them affordable in perpetuity and not provide a windfall for the first owners) the owners might let them fall into disrepair, thus bringing down the value of surrounding houses. Think about this: if you finally give people an opportunity to build their own home, in an extremely desirable community, why would they neglect their property? Not only are these people going to take pride in their homes (as most owners of existing employee housing projects do), but they are exactly the type of people you would want as neighbours.
As to environmental concerns, certainly parts of the site are very sensitive. That’s why the developers hired environmental consultants first and based their plans on the consultants’ recommendations. An environmental impact study was done by the consultants and then reviewed and approved by a second consulting team. How can anyone short of an environmental consultant can argue with that?
Finally, the two developers have said they would build their houses on the large lots. In other words, they will be part of the neighbourhood.
There has been a great deal of criticism of Whistler in the last few years for its lack of employee housing. If the community can’t support this proposal it may as well give up on employee housing and a future generation of residents.