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Development projects in Sea to Sky corridor ramp up

Plans for three projects unveiled to community at May 5 public open houses

If the upcoming open houses are any indication, Sea to Sky country has become a hotbed of development opportunities.

On Thursday, May 5, the public will get its first real look at three different development proposals for the area.

In separate meetings throughout the corridor the community can hear about plans to develop the northernmost part of the resort municipality, the Boot Pub/Shoestring Lodge site in the heart of Whistler and the land near Porteau Cove on the southern fringe of the Sea to Sky corridor.

Each of the three open houses will detail the potential development plans for the specific areas.

These are just a handful of proposals either under active consideration at various levels of government or in the early stages of development. Some may proceed while others may be quashed.

But one thing is for sure. The pressure to develop here is enormous. In the next 15 years, the population of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is expected to almost double in size, from 35,000 people to a total of 65,000, with most of that growth happening in the southern area of the district, from Pemberton to Lions Bay.

The SLRD will need 15,000 more housing units in the next 25 years to deal with that growth.

Here is a taste of what's proposed.

The Lakelands proposal

To the new owners of this 280-acre site of private land on Whistler's northern edge, the possibilities seem limitless.

It could be the site of an international school, drawing students from around the world. It could be the place for a new "longevity centre" complete with spa, special clinics and age management programs. There could be a golf course and high-end condos and townhouses.

But there's one major catch. The land, the Parkhurst property, isn't actually slated for development. In fact, the current zoning allows for just three single-family homes on the land, which lies to the east and north of Green Lake at the edge of Whistler's northern boundary.

The developers say it's up to the community to decide as they work with municipal hall to come to a solution.

They are holding an open house at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Thursday, May 5 at 6 p.m. to give the community their first taste of what could lie ahead.

"We believe Whistler is a special place and we want to make sure that what we do we work along with the community of Whistler to make sure we provide things that Whistler needs at this moment," said Reza Farkoush, a Vancouver immigration consultant who represents the new owners.

"It's a long term project. So we want to make sure that we understand the community, we understand the needs and we can provide the right plans over time."

The 280-acre site was recently purchased by offshore investors under a company called Chateau Nova.

Farkoush said he isn't worried about the lack of zoning on the site, nor the fact that the community, through its Comprehensive Sustainability Plan public consultation process, decided to limit any future development between Function Junction to the south and Emerald Estates to the north. This proposal extends beyond that self-imposed community boundary.

"We are not worried about that," said Farkoush. "(The development) is bringing a lot of benefits on the table for the community."

The Parkhurst property was, in the 1950s, the home of 60 to 70 local loggers and their families. There was a successful steam-run sawmill operation there too. Later Parkhurst became home to a bunch of ski bum hippies in the 1970s.

The municipality has yet to receive a formal rezoning application from the new landowners. That should come after the initial community consultation.

"Our main goal is not to make a lot of money," said Farkoush. "That's not our goal. But our goal is to make sure that we bring something good for the tourists and we do something good for residents of Whistler as well.

"For us it is very important that we get the support of the Whistler community and how we can get support from the Whistler community (is) by understanding their needs and demands."

Shoestring Lodge/Boot Pub redevelopment

A little closer to home Cressey Development Limited is moving forward with a high-density residential development close to the heart of the village.

Though the development will see the demise of the Boot Pub and one of the cheapest hostels in town, the Shoestring Lodge, the new plans will bring new opportunities.

Along with 36 market townhomes, Cressey plans to build 36 resident restricted townhomes, ranging in size and number of bedrooms.

Employee housing will be arranged into three buildings with 12 units in each. Every unit will have access from the ground floor.

In total the redevelopment will deliver 168 bed units of restricted housing. Legally Cressey is required to build 126 units, part of its obligation for the development of the Westin Resort & Spa.

Cressey Development Manager David Evans explained that there was a delay in providing that housing because it's just so difficult to find suitable land in Whistler.

"We couldn't find an appropriate site," he said. "There's just not a lot of land available, to tell you the truth, for that kind of requirement."

Originally Cressey proposed building apartment-style employee housing, which would have been double their bed unit obligation. But at council's behest, they changed the plans for fewer units.

"They wanted quality over quantity," explained Evans.

The development will also see a new bridge at White Gold. It will be a two-lane bridge with a pedestrian pathway on the north side. Early estimates point to this being a $1 million upgrade.

Despite these amenities, council still has some concerns about the proposal, among them the impact to neighbours in Spruce Grove. They could be affected by the need to raise the dyke on the east side of Fitzsimmons Creek. There are also concerns about encroaching on the highway setback and the wetlands on Blackcomb Way.

The open house for this redevelopment proposal will take place at Gaitors on Thursday, May 5 from 2 to 6 p.m.

Porteau Cove development with Squamish Nation

Further afield, the Squamish Nation, in concert with Vancouver developer Concord Pacific, has plans to build 1,200 homes in Porteau Cove at the southern end of the Sea to Sky corridor.

This could accommodate roughly 3,000 residents.

The development proposal is still in the preliminary stages but the early rezoning application, which was submitted to the regional district in January, calls for a mixture of small-scale sustainable retail and commercial development along with residential development.

The developers plan to build a range of housing on the 1,200 acre site, such as single family housing, stacked townhouses and apartment style housing over commercial.

Most of the site, which is bordered to the north and west by Porteau Cove Provincial Park and to the east by Cypress Bowl Provincial Park, is not readily developable or serviced. As such, more than half the site will remain undeveloped where there is steep terrain, creeks and geotechnical hazards.

The application to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District states: "The project is an important precedent-setting project for the Squamish Nation that will include job shadowing and skills transfer for the Squamish people."

Representatives from Squamish Nation and Concord Pacific did not return phone calls before press time.

The open house will take place on Thursday, May 5 at 7 p.m. at the Sea to Sky Hotel in Squamish.