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Council endorses rezoning for new daycare in Rainbow

Rainbow Plaza targeted for up to 24 new daycare spaces
n-rainbow rezoning 28.07 2
A rezoning application for Rainbow Plaza could see new daycare sapces added to Whistler’s Rainbow neighbourhood.

Whistler could soon see some much-needed daycare spaces open north of Whistler Village after council endorsed a related rezoning bylaw on Feb. 16.

The application from Calgary-based Rainbow Canuck Properties Ltd. seeks to amend the current zoning of the commercial site at 8200 Bear Paw Trail (also known as Rainbow Plaza) to improve the viability of the commercial tenancies onsite.

According to Doug Porozni, chair of Rainbow’s parent company Ronmor Developers Inc., the application has been a long time coming.

“We wanted to do a bit of a cleanup, because it’s been a lot of years since we’ve owned the asset, and we’ve always had some challenges with some leasing,” Porozni said.

“So we wanted to get a little more flexibility built into what we could do there.”

While the rezoning will apply a number of small changes to the existing CD1 zoning to allow a greater variety of commercial uses, Porozni said Ronmor has committed to a local childcare operator—the relatively new Creekside Kids, which opened in Creekside in December—to fill the space.

Creekside Kids is currently licenced for “occasional childcare” and has a capacity of 20 kids, but is looking at moving into a new space in Creekside as well as its expansion into Rainbow, said co-owner Melissa Baxandall.

Once in the new spaces, Creekside Kids will be able to offer infant/toddler and childcare services to locals, Baxandall said.

While local childcare providers often cite staffing as the main driving force behind daycare shortages, Creekside Kids takes a different approach, she added.

“We’re pretty fortunate. We’ve been in the field for 18 years, we’ve opened 21 plus [facilities] … so we’re pulling from a different pool than other providers in Whistler are pulling from,” Baxandall said.

“We have a team that opens facilities, we have a team that trains, we have experience with converting credentials.”

Converting Early Childhood Education credentials can take about six months for some here on visas, “but you need to know the system and you need to know how to do it, and you need to stay committed to it,” she added.

“So there’s ways around stuff, but it is very time consuming.”

The vacant space at Rainbow (170 square metres of gross floor area) can accommodate 24 kids and five staff, according to a staff report to council from planner Clancy Sloan.

The application also includes plans for an enclosed outdoor play area.

Some of the definitions and uses in the current zoning are restrictive and outdated, “including uses such as video and cable store or shoe repair,” Sloan said in a presentation to council.

Along with a grocery store, Rainbow Plaza currently includes a liquor store, dentist’s office and café. The zoning amendment bylaw proposes a new subsection requiring the commercial floor area of the parcel (excluding the grocery store) to be comprised of at least three Commercial Retail Units (CRU) with a combined gross floor area of at least 450 square metres, and that a minimum of 85 square metres be retained for use as a café, restaurant or public house.

“This is to ensure that there is a suitable mix of uses retained at the site and suitable area available to support these uses,” Sloan said.

The food and beverage stipulation was included “as this is deemed an important service to the neighbourhood, and it provides animation to the plaza,” he added.

Council was supportive of the rezoning for the potential new daycare spaces, but had some questions about the F&B requirement.

“I’m glad there’s language in there about maintaining a minimum of three CRUs, but I am challenged by having the stipulation of maintaining one F&B,” said Councillor John Grills, noting that “there’s been a number of operators” in the space already.

“If this daycare goes well and they’re looking for more space, it would be interesting to see if they have to come back and ask for that to be removed,” he said.

“We may see that in the future.”

While the potential daycare site is essentially sandwiched between two licenced businesses, “from our review of the BC licencing regulations for childcare facilities, there is nothing as it relates to distance from licenced premises,” Sloan said.

A public hearing will be held prior to third reading.