RMOW files appeal over OCP ruling 

Council news: Rainbow Plaza starts construction and new roof for rec centre

click to enlarge FILE IMAGE - Construction begins The highly anticipated Rainbow project, a commercial and residential property in Whistler's Rainbow subdivision, has broken ground.
  • File image
  • Construction begins The highly anticipated Rainbow project, a commercial and residential property in Whistler's Rainbow subdivision, has broken ground.

The RMOW has filed a notice to appeal the June 4 B.C. Supreme Court decision quashing last year's provincial approval of Whistler's Official Community Plan (OCP).

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden declined to comment in detail on the appeal, as it remains before the courts. The document will likely be made public in the coming days.

The Whistler and B.C. governments had until Friday, July 4 to appeal the ruling.

Last month, Justice Bruce Greyell ruled in favour of an earlier petition by the Lil'wat and Squamish First Nations opposing approval of Whistler's OCP by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

The RMOW was forced to revert back to the 1993 version of the planning document as a result of the ruling.

Greyell noted in his decision that the province did not meet its duty to consult with the Nations, saying the Crown was "locked into its position from the beginning and ultimately closed the door to further discussions."

The major issue the Nations have with the OCP is its inclusion of a hard cap on future development aboriginal officials feel will freeze them out of future development opportunities in Whistler.

"We just wanted our economic interests to be recognized as legitimate," wrote Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell in a statement following the decision. "Whistler has extensively developed within our aboriginal title lands over the past 40 years, and it would be completely unfair if they could now completely shut the Nations out from any future opportunities."

Officials from both senior and local levels of government have argued that a 2007 Legacy Lands agreement signed by the Nations binds them to the tenets of the latest OCP. As part of the deal, the Nations were granted 300 acres of Crown land and 452 bed units in exchange for agreeing to allow the RMOW to expand its municipal boundaries.

Both sides have debated a specific point in the agreement that says the Nations would be subject to all future RMOW bylaws, like the OCP, "despite any rule of law, court decision or enactment to the contrary that would exempt the (Nations) because of their Aboriginal status."

Victoria and Whistler have argued this prevents aboriginal officials from demanding the OCP be quashed, while the Nations feel that is "too broad an interpretation," claiming the agreement is overly restrictive and should not bind the Squamish and Lil'wat "for all land for all times."

As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, council gave third reading Wednesday, July 2 to a proposal that would streamline the development permit approval process and delegate its authority to issue certain permits to an RMOW official.

The bylaw amendment would exempt proponents from requiring a development permit for detached dwellings, or duplexes in any development permit area designated in the 1993 OCP if applicable guidelines are met.

The bylaw would also delegate council's authority to hand out certain development permits and covenant modifications or discharges restricting gross floor area to the RMOW's general manager of resort experience.

After reviewing the legal implications of the Supreme Court decision, municipal legal counsel felt it would be necessary to add the bylaw amendments in order for staff to process development permit applications "in a timely manner," according to the administrative report. It's also aimed at reducing uncertainty for permit applicants and minimizing potential disruption to the RMOW staff's work program.

"There’s been some kinks to work through, and there have been some internal staff meetings to clarify procedures and communications with the building and development sector, but things are moving along fairly well," Wilhelm-Morden said of the development and builder permit application process since the court's ruling.

Construction underway in Rainbow

Construction has begun on the highly anticipated Rainbow Plaza, a residential and commercial property in Whistler's Rainbow subdivision.

The work undertaken by Ronmor Development and Rainbow Canuck Properties is expected for completion in the fall of 2015, and will include 66 rental units and 24,000-square-feet of commercial space. The property will include retail space, a grocery store and a Chevron service station, as well as above-ground and underground parking.

The construction will require the temporary closure of a nearby park, although pedestrian access will be provided through the park between Crazy Canuck Drive and Bear Paw Trail while work is ongoing.

Two major parks in Rainbow that began construction in 2013 are also slated for completion by the end of the summer. The first is located at 8125 Crazy Canuck Drive, and the second on Highway 99 between the Valley and Bear Paw trails.

Development on the Rainbow subdivision began in 2008. The finished neighbourhood will include paths to the parks, a playground, a commercial area and the new Valley Trail connection to Alpine Meadows.

'Significant improvements' needed for Whistler to meet GHG goals, report shows

Until 2012, the resort was largely on track to meet the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets set out in Whistler 2020, the community's shared vision for a sustainable future.

But, Whistler will have to make "significant improvements" in order to meet the goal of reducing GHG emissions by 33 per cent from 2007 levels by 2020, according to a recent annual report.

The report shows that 2013 GHG emission levels were estimated at 17.5 per cent lower than in 2007 — a 19-per-cent drop would have put Whistler on target with green goals — and 23 per cent lower than figures from 2000. The emission levels for the year were 1.3 per cent lower than in 2012 — below the annual target required to meet the 2020 benchmark.

With many of the major one-time projects aimed at reducing energy consumption, like Whistler's 2009 conversion from piped propane to natural gas, already completed, the challenge for the community will be achieving the same rate of reduction achieved in the five years since Whistler 2020 was completed, according to the RMOW's information report presented to council on Wednesday.

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