Zen’s property a step closer to being downzoned 

The chances of a recreational vehicle park being built on John Zen’s land diminished last week, but the likelihood of a legal challenge went up as council gave bylaws to downzone the property third reading.

The opportunity for some sort of compromise also still exists.

The property, known as Lot 3, part of the Alpha Creek wetlands, was zoned for a recreational vehicle park in 1981. Zen applied to develop the RV park on the environmentally sensitive site this year after the municipality rejected a development proposal on adjacent lands he owned. The proposal would have protected 80 per cent of Zen’s 111 acres, including all of the wetlands.

Prior to giving the bylaws third reading at their July 16 meeting, Whistler council was informed that a legal challenge to the closure of the July 3 public hearing on the bylaws was coming from Zen’s lawyers.

The legal challenge is based on the fact Councillor Nick Davies tried to ask a question regarding the downzoning after Mayor Hugh O’Reilly closed the public hearing. The question was not permitted.

On Monday Davies said he was the aggrieved party in the matter but he had no objections. Administrator Jim Godfrey replied that Zen feels he is the aggrieved party. Godfrey added that lawyers for the municipality don’t feel Zen has a case.

Meanwhile, Councillor Kristi Wells was the only one to vote against third reading of the downzoning bylaws on July 16. Wells, who has opposed the downzoning process from the start, characterized the move as reactionary. She added that Zen’s representatives are still in negotiations with municipal representatives and there was no urgency to downzone. Giving the bylaws third reading "drops a gauntlet," she said.

Councillor Stephanie Sloan replied that third reading won’t hamper any negotiations and the bylaws still require adoption before they become law.

Councillor Ken Melamed said council’s actions have been "well thought out and consistent with our plans. The land should never have been zoned (for a RV park). This doesn’t diminish our ability to achieve a win-win."

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