March 09, 2001 Features & Images » Feature Story

A time to plan 

Whistler's official community plan and comprehensive development plan were designed to serve the town in the 1990s, but do they meet present and future needs?

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The lack of a new long range planning strategy is jeopardizing the limited land resources as private landowners are frantically trying to find potential in their rural resource-zoned property. These frustrated property owners (who thought the moratorium had a shorter life expectancy given the policies of the OCP/CDP) have been applying different techniques such as threatening to build undesirable "as of right" uses (such as large lot subdivisions, hostels or RV parks), while others have decided not to wait and have constructed the "as of right" use of one single family home or a hostel. In addition to the inefficient use of land these developments are also not subject to the same environmental and design standards of other committed developments.

In response the municipality has chosen not to deal with the big picture in the growth management strategy, but rather has preferred to further reduce the landowners "as of right" uses. The RR1 zoning amendment being considered by Council for undeveloped RR1 properties effectively removes all other currently permitted rural and resource uses and only permits large lot (100 acre) estate homes. In reality this may not be downzoning as given the current real estate market such estate development appears to be financially achievable. The end result of this Band-Aid approach will be the continued proliferation of inefficient and often insensitive estate home development, but developers have few other options.

Another threat to the local vision is the municipality's lack of preparedness concerning the new provincial legislation to permit density bonusing under the Local Government Act. There are currently no municipal policies relating to the legislation that allows the municipality to consider an upzoning in exchange for a financial contribution.

For the most part there are only a handful of sites that do not need bed units but could increase their value with additional density. The recent Taluswood lots may seem like an isolated application, but keep in mind there are subdivisions which still have unused bed units (bed unit allocations often fluctuate during actual build out), and could also make a similar request to allow larger homes.

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