Whistler residents might have noticed some logging and roadwork is underway in the Alpha Creek Lands, also known as the "Zen lands" after owner and developer John Zen, but that doesn't mean that a final decision has been made regarding the future of the 31-hectare property.
According to developer Doug Player, who is a strong proponent of building a university on the site, the Whistler University concept is still the preferred option, over and above the current zoning that allows for the construction of four estate homes on the land.
"There's really nothing new," said Player, who teamed up with former University of Victoria president David Strong to work on a proposal to create a small university - 1,200 to 1,500 students - that would focus on tourism, environmental sustainability, leadership and business executive programs. That proposal has never been formally submitted to council
"Council has approved some estate houses on there and so essentially we're just carving the roads and clearing the lots for those. We didn't make the road wide enough, so we're making them a little wider."
That work should be finished at the end of the week, Player said. However, a final decision on the future of the lands will likely wait until after the next municipal election in November, given the lack of support that the mayor and other councillors have expressed for the university project. It was noted last year by Mayor Ken Melamed that Player has brought forward six different development applications for the land since the 1990s, and that the developers have rejected offers for land swaps that would have preserved the forest and wetland complex.
"We've always been clear that we're going to develop the land," said Player. "We're just hoping that it will be something more economically beneficial to the community."
If the next mayor and council support the university concept in principle then Player and other proponents will put a formal application before council in late 2011 or early 2012. It's expected that plans would include housing for students and potentially some market housing to offset costs.
Roughly half the property can be developed without filling in wetlands and only half of the site - about 25 per cent of the total - would be used for the university campus.
If the next council comes out against rezoning the property to accommodate the university then the developers would go forward with Plan B, which is the construction of the four estate homes.
"We need to pick a time to put a formal application before council, and we won't do that until we're sure we have the support," Player said Tuesday. "Right now we know where the mayor stands, so we would probably look at this in terms of what happens in the next election."
Meanwhile Player said the behind the scenes work on the university is underway. As recently as June 23, the university proponents had a meeting with architects to discuss possibilities. They will be hosting another strategy session in late September. Plans are updated online at www.whistleru.com.
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