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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Are ill-informed objections for the health of the community or just self-interest?

Opinion-Letters-Alta-Lake-1-021821
A rezoning sign posted on the property at 5298 Alta Lake Rd.

My name is Caroline Lamont. I am the land development manager for the 5298 Alta Lake Rd. rezoning. I am a professional planner, living in restricted-resident housing for more than 20 years. 

I am writing to clarify the rezoning application that is going to a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. The staff reports and virtual meeting link are available on the municipal website at whistler.ca/municipal-gov/council/meeting-agendas-and-minutes.  

Having worked for the municipality as a planner in the 1990s, then as a councilperson in the 2000s, I certainly know that for 40 years, there have been many creative approaches in achieving employee housing. Market housing allocations were used to subsidize housing at Lorimer Ridge, Millar’s Pond, Nesters, and Spruce Grove. 

The Employee Service Charge Bylaw was used to reduce costs at Beaver Flats, Nesters Hill and Lorimer Court. 

Rainbow had market housing as well as significant commercial development. 

Cheakamus Crossing was heavily subsidized through the Olympics, and grants, yet still has 10-per-cent market housing. These innovative approaches have ensured a stable workforce and a strong community.

It is for this reason that I am confused why a handful of people in Whistler believe our project is “a bad deal,” when the approach is consistent (if not better) than other housing projects. The Alta Lake property has existing development rights (tourist accommodation) recognized in the OCP for more than two decades, with access through Nita Lake Drive. 

The owners continue to pay property taxes based on the site’s potential and facilitated the installation of the major water line to service the properties along Alta Lake Road and Nita Lake Drive.

My main disappointment is those individuals that are comfortably housed claiming this is a “bad deal” for the community based [on erroneous] information. As far as the impact of the development on the environment, the application has met municipal and provincial requirements, providing riparian setbacks to Nita Lake that far exceed existing developments such as Nita Lake Estates/Lodge, Boulder/Whistler Ridge and Beaver Flats.

I urge everyone that is either interested [in] or concerned about this project to review the staff reports and attend the public hearing presentation.

It has been three years since the Mayor’s Task Force [on Resident Housing] and there are over 600 persons on the employee housing “for-purchase” waitlist. 

[This] project provides 21 employee units (69 bed units). The developer is required to donate/design/build a three-acre (1.2-hectare) park, extend the new Valley Trail link along the west side of Nita Lake with a bridge north, and renovate the Hillman cabin, all with a financial value of approximately $1.3 million (excluding the land dedications of 4.5 acres, or more than 48 per cent of the site). 

It is unclear why new employee units, a developed park, riparian buffer, the extension of the Valley Trail and significant land dedications in exchange for two new market units are a “bad deal.” The existing development rights would not provide most of these amenities.  

I personally have reached out and clarified the proposal to many of the strongest objectors, yet the inaccuracies continue. 

Having been directly involved in affordable housing projects for most of my career, I continue to question whether the motives behind ill-informed objections are for the health of the community or just self-interest.

Caroline Lamont // Whistler