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Council creates company to oversee Athletes Village development

Council has approved the creation of a development corporation to oversee the formation of the Athletes Village amid concerns there may be a conflict of interest for municipal staff.

Councillor Caroline Lamont raised the issue of conflict of interest at Monday’s council.

She worried that municipal staff would be reporting to two masters, namely council and the board of the new development company, which includes the Vancouver Organizing Committee of the 2010 Games.

"I think it could be problematic," she said.

The Athlete Village Development Corporation has been created to not only facilitate the building of the Village for the 2010 games but to also limit the liability of the development to the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

"It is a common way for municipalities to handle a development program, such as the village," said Mike Vance, general manager of community initiatives with the RMOW.

In response to Lamont’s concerns over conflict of interest, he said there would be checks and balances in place.

"We’re going to have guiding principles that will guide the master planning of the village," he said, after Monday’s meeting.

"We’ll have design guidelines. We’ll have development permit guidelines, so I think there’s going to be a very strong framework within which we will operate that will ensure we’re aligned. And we also have the common objective of delivering a showcase neighbourhood."

The Athletes Village will be located in the south end of Whistler, opposite Function Junction in the site of the Lower Cheakamus. It is set to become Whistler’s newest neighbourhood after the 2010 Games and intended to be a showcase area for sustainability in the Games.

The new company, which will be formed solely to build the village, will be responsible for guiding the whole project.

"We don’t do development — we regulate," said Vance.

"We knew clearly that if we were going to go down this road we needed to have some advisors who really had an insight into it and that is why we have proceeded the way we have."

The draft guiding principles for the design, development and operation of the athletes village and the community neighbourhood were approved at Monday’s meeting. Under these guiding principles the Athletes Village would:

• Respect the character of the resort community of Whistler;

• Provide a range of housing and price points;

• Incorporate systems and infrastructure that demonstrate best practices in sustainable design and technologies;

• Connect to adjacent neighbourhoods and recreation areas and reduces dependency on automobiles; and

• Support the tourism economy.

"I’m excited about going ahead under these parameters," said Councillor Ken Melamed.

"This is a really important commitment that we’ve made to the community."

Councillor Kristi Wells had asked to see the bylaws of the new company at a future council meeting but her suggestion was rejected at the council table.

"What can possibly be gained by bringing the bylaws to this table?" said Councillor Nick Davies, adding that councillors aren’t best qualified to review those bylaws.

"It we start managing this operation in that manner, we’re never going to deliver it."

A business plan is now in the works and if it finds the project is financially feasible the next step is to send out request for proposal.

It is hoped that a design and a developer will be chosen late next year, with construction beginning in 2006.

VANOC will provide $26 million towards the development with a further $6.5m for permanent or temporary First Nations housing. Another $13m will be given for the Athletes Centre.

The money will be used to leverage investment in the Athletes Village.

In the end there could be up to 300 permanent homes created for Whistler employees in a mixture of townhouses, condos and detached homes.

Lamont also raised concerns about the added workload on municipal staff that will result from planning a new Whistler neighbourhood.

Deputy Administrator Bill Barratt said the increased workload would be addressed during the upcoming budgeting process.

"Workload is always an issue," he said.

"There’s a lot that goes on in the community and as we’ve indicated to council, we’ll be looking at that through our budget processes moving forward to 2005-2006," he said after the meeting.

"When you actually look at the project in isolation, if it was a rezoning that was coming through the muni, it’s not overly significant in comparison to other rezonings that we’ve processed."

A nine-member Board of Directors has already been chosen to oversee the company.

The president will be Jim Moodie of Moodie Consultants with Eric Martin of Bosa Development as vice president.

Both offered their services free of charge.

Lamont pointed out that Bosa Development would not be able to bid of any projects within the Athletes Village due to conflict of interest.

The board will include two members from the Whistler Housing Authority, Duane Jackson and Steve Bayley and two members of council, Marianne Wade and Ken Melamed.

Municipal Administrator Jim Godfrey, or a designate, will also have a position on the board and VANOC will have a spot as ex officio.

The municipality will advertise for a member-at-large in the community to sit on the board.

The board will meet for the first time in roughly a month.

Meanwhile, work will soon be underway in the master planning process.

With files from Clare Ogilvie