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Legacy commercial activities in Callaghan under review

A lodge, tube park, RV/campsite and other commercial uses proposed for the Nordic centre following the 2010 Games may be deleted from a zoning bylaw being considered by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District today.

The development bylaws were the subject of a heated public hearing last month with many in the audience calling for the SLRD to reconsider bylaw 908, which allows several recreational "legacy" uses including a small lodge, tube park and RV/campsite.

Staff is now offering the SLRD board four options to consider:

• give third reading to bylaw 908 in its current form

• deny bylaw 908

• substantially amend bylaw 908 to delete all uses except the Temporary Commercial Uses, and the facilities specifically required for the 2010 Olympics

• Revise bylaw 908 to delete some of the "legacy" commercial uses until more detailed information is available, and bring forward a second rezoning bylaw once more information is available and has been discussed with the community and Whistler Legacy Society. To assist in this process, a new bylaw, 947, has been prepared for first reading.

Staff is recommending the board adopt the last option. It does not restrict or deny commercial uses but rather makes them subject to site specific rezoning.

The bylaws pertain to 262 hectares surrounding the Nordic centre, which will offer a cross-country stadium and trails, a shooting range for biathlon and ski jumps during the Olympics.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee is in discussion with the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations about the future of the Callaghan area as both First Nations claim it as shared traditional territory. Recently the First Nations gave the go-ahead for the competition footprint to get underway but negotiations are still on-going as to what recreational facilities and trails will be added to the site for use after the Games.

VANOC’s plan is for the site to be run by a Legacies Society, which would include First Nation’s representatives.

One of those who spoke out at the meeting last month was Brad Sills, one of the owner-operators of Callaghan Country, which offers backcountry experiences from its lodge in the Callaghan.

"The SLRD planning staff should be commended for advocating the re-examination of certain aspects of the proponent's (VANOC) rezoning application," said Sills this week on learning of the proposed amendments to bylaw 908.

"The lack of detailed facility design plans for the proposed Whistler Nordic Centre coupled with the absence of any business plan or even the identity of who constitutes ownership and how existing business will be treated as a result of the formation of the WNC are issues they (rightly) identified as needing attention. Hopefully the SLRD Area Directors will respect process and vote accordingly.

"The root of much of the problem currently surrounding development in the Callaghan Valley is the attempt to depart from the existing and publicly supported recommendations of the former Protected Area Strategy to an ill defined and not publicly supported new land management regime," Sills continued.

"VANOC, if it hopes to win support for both the commercial aspect of the (Whistler Nordic Centre) and its … legacy operations will need to now make due on its previous commitments to communities for open and transparent process and to business for ethical conduct in its practices."

In their discussions of the impacts of the Nordic centre staff noted that considerable concerns were raised during the public meeting by existing tenure holders.

"The SLRD has highlighted to VANOC the need to ensure all the interests of existing tenure holders are met…," states staff’s report.

" … there has been an expectation that Callaghan Country would be provided with an alternative tenure and/or a formal role within the Whistler Nordic Centre. To date, no agreement has been reached, and discussion between VANOC, LWBC, and tenure holders are on-going."

The SLRD did note in its staff report that VANOC has held numerous public forums for discussions on the Nordic Centre.

The SLRD board will also consider another bylaw, 913, which relates to the Callaghan. Staff is recommending it be given third reading with the adoption of a revised map and appropriate buffering of parks and commercial uses.