Northern Lights getting green light to fill void spaces 

Council briefs: cell antennas and water project delayed

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CLARE OGILVIE - Investigation Northern Lights is addressing its illegal space problem.
  • Photo by Clare Ogilvie
  • Investigation Northern Lights is addressing its illegal space problem.

This is just what council was hoping to see — strata corporations coming forward to deal with illegal construction in their developments and find a way to bring them into compliance.

In the latest case — a 45-townhouse unit on Tantalus Drive called Northern Lights, built on the side of Whistler Mountain close to the village, has been a thorn in the side of the municipal building department for 15 years.

The three-storey townhouse development was, like many Whistler properties, built on the sloping site. This created void spaces in basements and attics, which were developed illegally over time.

"To right an historic wrong at this stage... is really quite remarkable and I'm really pleased to see this," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, adding that this kind of application was exactly the kind of thing council wanted to address when it tackled the illegal space issue when it first came into office.

The owners at Northern Lights have asked council to rezone the property from 8,190 square metres (or 88,000 square feet) of gross floor area to 12,142 square metres (131,000 square feet) of gross floor area.

That's an additional 43,000 square feet of potential convertible void space within the building envelope both on the lower levels and in attic and loft spaces.

"I think this is ground-breaking," said Councillor Duane Jackson, who spearheaded the council task force on the illegal space issue.

He pointed out, however, that the different types of void spaces won't be fair to all people in the strata — the uphill sloping units are different from the downhill units built into the side of the mountain.

"It's not a slam dunk," he added.

Still, the municipality and other strata corporations will be able to watch and learn from this process, he said.

Northern Lights has been an ongoing enforcement file ever since it came to the attention of the municipality 15 years ago that alterations had been made to some units without building permits.

"It's been a long-standing enforcement file with the municipality," said senior municipal planner Melissa Laidlaw in her presentation to council.

This rezoning would allow those owners to bring unauthorized construction into conformance and allow other owners to develop their void spaces too.

"The proposal would not increase the number of bed units or the parking requirements," she added.

There will be no exterior changes.

Councillor Johhn Grills asked Laidlaw how the strata came up with the global figure of 43,000 square feet of additional space. She said architects examined the various styles of the units in the development and determined the potential for build-out space.

On Tuesday council endorsed further review of the application including preparation of the zoning amendment bylaw for council's consideration.

That same night council also held a public hearing for six properties on Blueberry Hill governed by the Land Use Contract. Council is in the process of amending that contract to exclude the basement floor areas from the gross floor area definition. This would bring it in line with the overarching zoning bylaw in the municipality. In that bylaw, the basement definition and overheight crawlspace definition was revamped during the illegal space task force work; it is now excluded as part of the gross floor area calculation.

There were no comments at the public hearing on the proposal land use contract amendment.

Cell antennas slated for village rooftop

There will be another rooftop cell service antenna in the heart of the village after council gave its approval at Tuesday's meeting, Sept. 2.

"We don't really have any jurisdiction," pointed out the mayor.

"At the end of the day, if we didn't approve it, they'd just be constructed anyway."

Still, the new TELUS application, which includes six panel antennas and three radio cabinets, was reviewed through council's new policy — G-25 Antenna System Siting Protocol.

This gives Whistler a chance to add its two cents on possible locations and designs.

The new antenna will go on the roof of the Alpenglow Lodge on Main Street, with the approval of the owners of the strata. There is an existing Rogers antenna system on the Alpenglow rooftop.

According to the municipal staff report: "TELUS seeks to maintain and improve high quality, dependable network services and in order to improve network performance, TELUS is looking to add the proposed rooftop antenna installation."

According to analysis in the staff report to council, increasing cell coverage is good for business and the guest experience, and allows better access to 911 services given that more than half of 911 calls are made on cell phones.

Staff worked with TELUS to mitigate the visibility of the proposed antennas by blending them in with the colour of the building. This was done in an effort to protect Whistler's viewscapes and mountain character.

Alpine water project delayed

With just one company putting in a bid for water main work in Alpine this year, council has agreed to delay the project until next year.

"We decided that for the overall benefit of the municipality financially, it would make the most sense to re-tender the work in 2015," said Michael Day, utilities group manager with the municipality.

He said contractors told the municipality that they were simply too busy at this time of year to begin a construction project of this nature.

The work is part of a three-year water utility project with a total value of $5 million. It will replace the nearly seven kilometres of pipe in Alpine , including new hydrants and associated road restoration.

In his report to council Day wrote: "This work is being conducted to replace the unlined iron pipe in the Alpine Meadows neighbourhood, which has been the source of aesthetic water quality complaints."

The first phase of the work in 2014 accounted for 18 per cent of the total project.

"Not doing this work now shouldn't really have a big impact," said Day. "We'd stay on track overall in terms of overall schedule."

The plan now is to re-tender the work in March 2015 and start construction in May.

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