May 04, 2001 Features & Images » Feature Story

Alpha Creek down-zoning questioned 

Fewer than a dozen people showed up at municipal hall Saturday morning for an open house on the proposed down-zoning of Lot 3, Block C, District Lots 1754 and 3361. The description of the land alone was probably mind-numbing enough to keep most people away, but those who did show up to find out about the precedent-setting proposal left questioning whether the municipality had lost its mind.

The land in question is part of 111 acres between Alta Lake Road and Function Junction owned by John Zen. Lot 3 is environmentally sensitive wetland and has, since 1981, been zoned for a trailer park. The municipality wants to preserve the land in its present state, which is why it has proposed the down-zoning. Zen doesn’t want to develop a trailer park – he proposed 820 rental employee bed units and about 200 market bed units on other parts of his land, well removed from the wetlands – but feels he’s been forced to by the municipality.

Zen has owned the Alpha Creek lands, which in addition to Lot 3 includes three lots zoned RR1, for the past 22 years. The Zen family is in the construction business in the Lower Mainland, where the company philosophy has been to buy property and develop it in a way that will provide a continual, long-term return on investment, as opposed to building and selling. The company has never done a project in Whistler, although it knows a bit about development here through the Bosa family, who are relatives.

Over the years Zen has made several proposals for the Alpha Creek lands, including a suggestion that the new elementary school being built at Intrawest’s Spring Creek subdivision on the other side of the highway would fit better on the less-environmentally sensitive portion of his land. All of his proposals had been turned down, so last year he tried a new approach: going to the community to ask what it wanted.

After consulting with the Whistler Housing Authority a proposal was brought forward last fall. The plan involved a mix of 16 single family lots and 47 townhouses, and building 820 employee bed units in town houses and apartment complexes. In turn, 67 per cent of the property, including almost all of the wetlands, would be placed in a community foundation for environmental protection. The plan evolved, with the number of single family lots reduced and an offer to preserve 80 per cent of the land, including the wetlands and areas surrounding the several creeks that run through the property. Consultant Marianne Wade says the municipality was asked what sort of market/employee housing mix it would like to see but never responded.

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