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More construction projects on horizon

Health centre expansion, hotel renovation and new homes moving forward

Three new construction projects are in the works after council’s consideration and initial approvals this week.

The projects range from the major renovation of a local hotel, an addition to the health care centre and a small residential development in the south end of town.

Each received council’s blessing, though not all are through the approval process. Each project also raised separate concerns.


Cheakamus North moving forward

As council gave the first approvals for the development of three new 5,000 square foot homes on the lands known as Cheakamus North, Mayor Ken Melamed challenged the developer to set new green standards.

“My expectation is that this project is going to set a standard for green building of monster homes that this resort has never seen before,” he said.

The mayor referred to a statistic he’d read that the most efficient estate home was still less efficient than the least efficient 2,000 square foot home.

This was not the only project seen by council Monday night that was challenged to meet green building standards.

The Cheakamus North project has long been in the works.

This latest proposal sees the eight hectare (20 acre) parcel of land in between Spring Creek and Millar’s Pond developed with three large single family homes. A public road right of way will be dedicated to connect those two neighbourhoods.

The developer, Vision Pacific, will also donate 2.4 hectares (6 acres) of a riparian area to the Land Conservancy of B.C.

The developer will build roughly one-third of the new road. It is expected the municipality will build the remainder at a later date.

The land currently has six bed units (the municipality’s tool to measure development) associated with it. The rezoning requires 18 bed units in total.

Bylaws for the project received first and second reading Monday and a public hearing on the project will be scheduled.

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler opposed the rezoning but did not publicly state his reasons for doing so.


Coast hotel to get facelift

A major renovation at the Coast Whistler Hotel is expected to get underway as soon as possible.

Council approved the first steps, which included first two readings of rezoning bylaws, Monday night but not without raising some concerns.

Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden pointed to several recent hotel renovations in the village which had taken longer to complete than anticipated and she questioned if council could do anything to ensure the Coast is not covered in hoarding and scaffolding during the 2010 Games.

She asked if council could insist on the completion of the exterior work before the interior work. Staff said it would investigate that possibility.

Councillor Bob Lorriman said he initially had the same concerns but sees the Games as a huge incentive for developers to get the work done sooner rather than later.

In addition to the timing of the project Mayor Melamed highlighted the Coast as one of the few hotels in the resort that offers lower prices — something he does not want to see disappear with the renovation.

“It is not a five star or a four star hotel,” said the mayor of the Coast. “I think it’s in our interest to make sure it doesn’t go in that direction.”

He encouraged staff to outline to the developers the municipality’s position of maintaining a diversity of price points in the resorts’ accommodation offerings.

The biggest debate at the council table revolved around the issue of bed units.

The renovation will not add any more square footage outside the existing building footprint. However, in addition to the exterior work, there will be significant changes inside the Coast. The owners plan to add more than 3,000 square feet of storage space within the building footprint.

There will also be a decrease in the number of bed units on the site, from 389 to 360. That’s because the developers are making bigger units on the site and essentially getting rid of 14 hotel rooms.

Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden asked council to pass a motion that would extinguish the 29 bed units no longer used.

Arguments for keeping the bed units on site were heard, as well as for extinguishing them.

“There’s a symbolic act here,” said Councillor Zeidler in support of dissolving the units.

His colleague Tim Wake quipped: “I think we’re venturing into symbolic insanity here.”

Council unanimously passed the approved first two readings of the rezoning bylaws. A public hearing will be scheduled.

The motion to extinguish the bed units was defeated in a 4 to 3 vote with just Zeidler and Councillor Gord McKeever supporting Wilhelm-Morden’s direction. The leftover bed units will remain on the site.


Health centre expansion

Council has cleared the way for an addition to the Whistler Health Care Centre which will house its new CT scanner.

A single story rectangular structure will be added on to the existing building over four parking stalls. Two new stalls will be added close to the heli-pad.

Council raised some concerns about the loss of parking, which totals five stalls after factoring in the expansion. Despite those concerns, the development permit was approved unanimously.

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority will undertake the $1.3 million expansion project, which will house the scanning room, a control room and offices in a 90 square metre (970 square foot) addition.

Funding for the project is coming from not only public funds through the Sea to Sky Regional Hospital District but also through donations from local foundations and private companies and a community-wide fundraising effort.

It was this effort that prompted Councillor Zeidler to overlook the concerns of the parking stalls and the visual impact of the mechanical systems on the roof, saying that it was a miracle the project has gotten this far.