By Loreth Beswetherick
There is still a chance a new elementary school could open its doors in September of 2001 if the district gets title to the Whistler South site within the next few months.
The school board and Intrawest are both optimistic title will be transferred within the next three months. The bigger challenge will, however, likely come from Victoria.
Before the land can be transferred to the school board, Intrawest needs fourth reading for the Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy. A formal application to acquire the land can then be made to the B.C. Assets and Lands Corporation.
"We are probably shooting to have title in the school district’s hand in February," said Intrawest Resort Development Group vice president Doug Ogilvy. "We believe that is achievable."
"We are in the process of finalizing our negotiations with BCAL on the acquisition of the overall Spring Creek lands," said Ogilvy. "Right now we are having an appraisal done. We are hoping to have that resolved with BCAL in the next four weeks."
Ogilvy said Intrawest hopes to come before council for fourth reading of the CDS in December. Once that is achieved and the land has been acquired, the next step will be a subdivision to carve off the school site as quickly as possible.
Ogilvy said as part of fourth reading Intrawest is posting letters of credit to look after servicing costs of the school site. He said Intrawest will be in a position to subdivide the school land even though there will be no roads to the site.
He said site servicing will be done through the summer, starting in April or May 2000. Construction access to the site should be ready by August or September of 2000. "So, they would be in a position to start construction in August or September," said Ogilvy. "That would give 12 months to get the school built to hit the September 2001 window."
Ogilvy said, however, getting the plans through Victoria could be another matter. He said the province’s eye on cost coupled with the resort’s strict design guidelines and the mountainous nature of the site could mean delays in getting the necessary building permits to commence construction by August. "The way the provincial system works is you design your building and you send it over to Victoria. They could keep the designs and try to find ways to reduce the costs and that could end up holding things up," said Ogilvy.
"This is not the least expensive site. We are building in the mountains and we also have tougher urban design panel requirements here than in Chilliwack, for example," he said. "That is going to be the most challenging, getting internal sign-off from the school board and the municipality and then getting from there to the development permit."
School board secretary-treasurer Nancy Edwards agrees. "There is still a possibility we could open in 2001 but it is very, very difficult to estimate when you are on a site like that. I guess most sites in Whistler, being in mountainous country, are difficult and that presents its own set of challenges," said Edwards.
This is coupled with the fact the Ministry of Finance must agree that all construction is being done in the most cost-effective manner. "Every step of the way you have to go through this value analysis with the ministry and prove you are using the most cost-effective materials. That makes me a bit nervous. That could lengthen the process."
Edwards said third reading for the Whistler South CDS has given the school board more leverage to try and get the ministry to release some funds. "It’s looking more positive."
The new elementary school will have room for 350 plus 100 Kindergarten students.