Only the two smallest proposals received during last November’s call for affordable housing projects are likely to go ahead this year.
At a special meeting Monday council received a report from the planning department which ranked the 10 proposals based on an evaluation matrix and public input at a recent open house. Council okayed the Holzern Haus project, for three bed units, and the White Gold Estates project, for 18 bed units to go on to the next step for more detailed evaluation.
But after considerable debate the Alpha Creek, Whistler South, 19 Mile Creek and Cheakamus North projects were put "in limbo" pending a consultant’s report and needs assessment of affordable housing. That report is expected in the next 3-4 weeks.
The Nita Lake Lodge, Nesters Hill, Beaver Flats and Lake View proposals will not be given further consideration.
Most council members felt there was little urgency to push any of the larger projects ahead this year after Planning Director Mike Vance presented a report which showed 767 employee bed units are already expected to be built this year. Those projects include Barnfield Farm, Gondola 6, townhomes at Spruce Grove, Whistler Mountain’s staff building near Twin Lakes, the High Country brew pub, townhomes and apartments by Blackcomb near Base II, and another complex being developed by Intrawest in Millar’s Pond.
However, Councillor Kristi Wells noted that several of those projects will benefit the mountains but not small businesses.
"I still think that’s a clear void. Many of those were on the books for last year. I don’t think they’re going to solve the housing problem in the fall," Wells said.
Councillor Dave Kirk replied that some accommodation will likely be freed up next winter when construction crews leave town as major building projects wind down.
Municipal staff recommended that the Alpha Creek project go on to the second, more detailed level of evaluation but councillors voted 4-2 to keep it "in limbo" with Whistler South, 19 Mile Creek and Cheakamus North. Kirk and Wells were opposed to the motion.
The evaluation matrix the municipal planning department proposed to evaluate the 10 proposals was revised to include a category for affordability and subsidization. The category was given a weight of 10, one point higher than any other category.
But some took issue with the scores assigned in the matrix. The Alpha Creek project, for instance, scored a zero on the environmental criteria because it is in an area that, according to municipal mapping, has severe environmental constraints. However, a spokesman for the developer pointed out that the municipal mapping system is not very detailed and an environmental analysis of the site has been done and the proposal protects the sensitive areas.
Similarly, the proponents of Cheakamus North felt they should have received an additional 35 points on their score, which would have moved them to the top of the list of large projects.
The Whistler South proponents later noted that some of Whistler Mountain’s bed units may be used in their proposal, which would reduce the number of employee bed units that project would require.