Alpha Creek downzoning considered 

The fate of the Alpha Creek wetlands is expected to be a topic at Monday’s council meeting, where council will likely consider third reading of a bylaw to downzone a portion of the wetlands owned by John Zen.

The bylaw was the subject of a public hearing at council’s July 3 meeting, where consultant Sharon Jensen, of Jensen Resort Planning, argued that the uses allowed under the proposed rezoning are not economically viable.

The land in question, Lot 3, was zoned for a recreational vehicle park in 1981. Zen applied to develop the RV park on the environmentally sensitive site this year after the municipality rejected a development proposal which included adjacent lands owned by Zen.

Zen’s property, Lot 3 and three adjacent parcels, totals 111 acres. His development proposal originally involved a mix of 16 single family lots and 47 townhouses, as well as 820 employee-restricted bed units. In turn, 67 per cent of the lands would be preserved. The proposal later evolved to include preservation of 80 per cent of the land, including all the wetlands, and reduced the number of single family lots.

The municipality countered with an offer to buy all of Zen’s land for $5.7 million. Several options involving the transfer of development rights to other pieces of land in the valley were also proposed.

Zen rejected the offers and then moved to develop his lands as current zoning allows: the RV park and three estate homes.

The municipality responded with the bylaws to downzone Lot 3 to a new Protected Area Network zoning. Under the proposed zoning the only permitted uses of the land would be for a conservation park, unsheltered eco-tourism uses or an unsheltered school providing instruction in eco-tourism or other nature-based programs.

Jensen argued that the limitations imposed in the proposed downzoning would not make any sort of tourism business viable.

"Unless the municipality knows of examples, none of the uses listed in the PAN bylaw is economically viable," Jensen said at the public hearing.

The municipality’s move to downzone the property for environmental preservation is backed up by a Supreme Court decision. Last year the court upheld North Vancouver’s downzoning of a piece of land for environmental preservation.

Eckhard Zeidler, representing the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, spoke in favour of the downzoning at the July 3 public hearing, saying any development of the land is inappropriate until a complete protected area network strategy is done. AWARE members reviewed and rejected Zen’s proposal last fall.

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