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Whistler council approves Nordic housing development

Fourteen employee-restricted townhomes and six market townhomes will be constructed in Nordic Estates

Whistler's mayor and council have approved the issuance of a development permit for the proposed Nordic housing development located at 2077 Garibaldi Way. 

With the approval, 14 employee-restricted townhomes and six market townhomes will be constructed in the Nordic Estates neighbourhood. 

The development came about as a result of the municipality’s Private Sector Employee Housing Initiative, one of the recommended actions of the Mayor’s Task Force on Resident Housing, to allow the private development of resident restricted housing on underdeveloped lands.

Since the original rezoning application was submitted to the municipality in 2017, the proposed housing development has evolved significantly after extensive input from the community and Whistler council. 

The original proposal, which drew significant public opposition, was for a four-storey, 74-unit employee rental development spread over three separate buildings. However, density and neighbourhood concerns around parking led to the project being substantially altered. 

A "robust" housing agreement for the project received first three readings in May, setting the maximum initial sales price for the employee units at $559 per square foot, the maximum rental rate at $2.75 per sq. ft., and a maximum monthly rental rate per room of $1,000.  

The agreement also dictates that owners wishing to sell their unit must first make it available to qualified candidates on the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) waitlist, according to priority. If, after a period of 60 days, the unit still has not sold, then the owner can sell it to anyone who meets the definition of a qualified employee under the WHA’s criteria. 

A penalty of $700 per day will apply to a unit that is used or occupied in breach of the agreement. 

At the Aug. 2 meeting, Councillor Duane Jackson raised concern about the length of time it took to approve the townhome development, which first came before council five years ago. 

“In this time, construction costs have increased substantially, so if we can take this process and the other ones we're going through and establish more clarity on guidelines, livability, proximity, density and things like that, [we should]," he said. 

"This project went from looking at high density in an existing neighbourhood. We had resistance to it. If we could create a post-review process, what could we do in terms of information that could go out and avoid some of the iterations that have happened? There’s been [submissions to] the design panel many times, a lot of conversations, a lot of expense.

"Whatever we can do, because I don’t think we want to do another five-year approval process because there’s probably not too many people that would jump into the current developer's shoes.”

Coun. Jen Ford praised the developer's work in including the community in the design process. "I echo that this is great. It has come a long way. I mean, it's a completely different project than 2017; these are not apples-to-apples projects,” she said. 

“This was a concerted effort by the developer to listen to the community and find something that works for the site, and I think they've done that well. This is 14 units of employee housing that someone else would have had to build otherwise, so this is awesome.”  

Mayor Jack Crompton, meanwhile, spoke to how the municipality's Balance Model Initiative—an overarching effort to better manage Whistler's capacity and growth—has shaped both the project in Nordic and Whistler's approach to housing overall. 

“I think the Balance Model gave us a lot of good direction around what we will have to do to make big dramatic changes if we want to see the kind of future that we envision,” he said. 

“This housing delivered now is good. We will need to see more, so we'll need to do things differently for that to happen. It will mean giving our team the tools they need to do that work. It will mean resourcing it, as we talked about, around climate. So I share the enthusiasm to see this realised, and I certainly have a desire to see us expedite the delivery of housing moving forward." 

With the issuance of the development permit and related bylaw and Official Community Plan amendments passed, the developer will begin site work this September.