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Soo landowner wants zoning exemption

Regional district trying to make Area C lands more difficult to subdivide

Dave Vandenberg’s family has been connected to a large piece of land in the Soo Valley since the early 1970s. For two years he has been working on plans to develop 21 homes on the land, along with a community farm, a tree farm and an equestrian centre.

In February this year he submitted a subdivision application to the Ministry of Transportation, the provincial body which approves subdivision applications.

At Monday Vandenberg was the only private landowner to speak against a bylaw proposed by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District that would make it tougher to develop his land.

Vandenberg said he was surprised when the regional district introduced the bylaw last October, which would change the zoning on his land and other similarly zoned land in Area C and essentially require a more stringent process to develop.

"I think I've been acting in good faith with the SLRD," said Vandenberg at the public hearing.

He lobbied to be included in the one exemption to the bylaw, namely the controversial development north of Wedge Mountain, to which Whistler is staunchly opposed.

Only four members of the community attended Monday night's public hearing in Pemberton.

The SLRD bylaw is designed in part to limit growth in the area. It changes zoning on private land holdings in the Rural 1 Resource Management zones in Area C from a minimum parcel area size of eight hectares (20 acres) to 40 hectares (100 acres). The bylaw also applies to development on Crown land.

This means that rather than going through the usual subdivision application channels with the province, a developer would have to go through a much tougher rezoning process with the SLRD, where the costs and the benefits to the community and the environment could be evaluated.

The rationale behind the bylaw, explained SLRD Planner Willie Macrae, is that rising land values in the corridor make development much more enticing. The bylaw, which is consistent with zoning in Area A and B and Whistler, allows the SLRD to have more input and evaluation and community consultation to judge a project.

Peter Gordon, a representative of Yukon Inc. the company which owns the Wedge land, read aloud a letter from company president Peter Bruckmann, supporting the bylaw and more specifically, his development's exemption in the bylaw.

Bruckmann has a subdivision application before the MOT for a residential development of roughly 100 homes.

"… we wish to reiterate to you that we have been working very closely with your planning department these past three years to complete our subdivision approval for what we think will be a very beneficial development in Area C," wrote Bruckmann.

"Our application has been under active consideration and review by the SLRD and the MOT Approving Officer considerably before contemplation of this bylaw."

The Wedge development is not a prospect welcomed by Whistler. The RMOW is trying to limit this so-called fringe development, which they perceive as detrimental the municipality. The development, they argue, draws on services from the resort but does not add to the tax base.

At the same time, Whistler is striving to protect green space as much as possible, limiting its own growth in the built corridor between Function Junction in the south and Emerald Estates in the north.

That's part of the rationale behind Whistler's boundary expansion, which if approved by the province, would incorporate the lands under consideration for the Wedge development.

Mayor Hugh O'Reilly has said in the past that he would continue to champion Whistler's cause against this residential development at the SLRD board table.