Whistler Council wants to ensure the southern "gateway" to the resort does not become an eyesore with big box stores and fast food wrappings blown around in the wind on the Sea to Sky Highway.
With that in mind council chose not to endorse a report into a rezoning application of the Function Junction Legacy Lands, which would have allowed the development of the land to go to the public information stage.
The rezoning request included provision for a fast-food drive-through, five buildings, including a gas station, no limit to retail and rentals spaces and other extensive changes, RMOW planning analyst Kevin Creery told council. Changes to signage were also requested.
Staff was instructed at the June 19 council meeting June 19 to discuss the application with the owners of the property, Lil'wat Nation, before proceeding.
The property, 2.15 hectares (5.3 acres) located at the southwest corner of the entrance to Function Junction, is surrounded by Highway 99, the CN railway line and Alpha Lake Road.
In January 2012 through a subsidiary company, 0775448 BC Ltd, the Lil'wat Nation applied to amend the CS2 and IS5 (industrial use) zoning through a desire to broaden the range of commercial uses.
"The visual concern is that what we see as the Gateway to Whistler," said Councillor Duane Jackson. "This may be an opportunity... for a high capital investment (like a technology company) to get into that site that could present itself."
"How we treat this is really delicate," said Councillor Roger McCarthy, adding that a suitable use for the property is important in terms of Whistler's image. "I think this has got great potential and if done right it could be a great addition to what we have down there."
A discussion followed where McCarthy suggested it could be an opportunity to talk about a structured approach to creating a more appealing southern approach into Whistler, with a roundabout rather than lights to ease the flow of traffic.
The land was originally transferred to the Squamish Nation and Lil'wat Nation in fee simple title as a legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the Lil'wat Nation eventually taking over full ownership. The May 2007 Legacy Land Agreement between the First Nations and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) set forth provisions for the use and development of the property.
Councillor Jayson Faulkner noted that some companies in Function Junction are currently suffering in a diminished economic climate, and he was also worried that the proposal "would start to make us look like a strip mall."
"Function Junction is a moving target as it is right now, some of the zoning applications that we have coming forward is being driven partly because of the increased population base at that end of the valley looking for more services," he said. "Secondly, this is a very significant impact on us as a resort in terms of who we are as a resort."
Finally, the mayor waded in. Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said it would be a mistake to move the request forward, considering the misgivings.
"I'm not liking this at all, actually," she said. "Hearing the concerns that all of us have expressed, the problem with moving it forward (to the public consultation stage) is every time you do that you go to a public information meeting and three people show up. Then it goes back to us for first and second reading, it goes to a public hearing and 10 people show up. We don't give it a third reading and we still don't like it, and the proponent says 'wait a minute, I've been in the process for 18 months and spent $500,000'. So maybe we could go down that road and maybe we'd like it more or we could send it back (to staff)."
Following that comment by the mayor, a motion was made to send the proposal and concerns back to staff which would discuss them with the proponent. It passed unanimously.
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