Amenity zoning tested at public hearing 

Affordability and sustainability, two issues that are becoming more prominent as Whistler approaches buildout, came head to head during a public hearing Monday.

Glenn and Larry Houghton each have lots in Taluswood which will allow them to build homes up to 3,500 square feet. They have offered to provide the municipality with an amenity – specifically, $300,000 – in exchange for "bonus densities" which would allow them to build houses of 5,000 square feet. Most of the amenity money will go to the new Spring Creek daycare ($250,000), while the remaining $50,000 will go toward building costs of Millennium Place.

The lots for the houses are larger than lots in existing subdivisions which would permit homes of 5,000 square feet. Municipal planner Sharon Jensen called the rezoning application a "one-off" and said while the "amenity zoning" is part of the new Local Government Act, the concept was not new to Whistler.

However, Max Gotz said if council was now in the business of selling zoning there was nothing special about this particular application.

"Lots of people can afford to do this," Gotz said. "It’s an arbitrary decision as to where the money will go. There was no public discussion."

He asked what the parameters were for council to accept an application for bonus density. He also suggested large homes ran counter to the Natural Step principles of sustainability Whistler is adopting.

"There’s no way expanding the size of homes can be environmentally sustainable," Gotz said. "No one has measured this against the cost on the municipal infrastructure.

"Not a single one of you has any excuse to be environmentally ignorant on this," he said to council. "If you don’t know the environmental ramifications of this you shouldn’t be on council."

However, most of the other speakers supported the application because the amenity money will finish fund-raising for the Spring Creek day care.

"Sustainability is a good point, but it’s a loaded word," said Maureen Douglas. "It also includes quality day care.

"There’s been discussion of Whistler becoming home to the filthy rich," Douglas continued. "We also need discussion on whether Whistler will be home to young families."

Douglas, and others, pointed out that juggling child care can be one of the biggest stresses on working families. As well, completing the day care’s fund-raising frees up fund-raising efforts for other community projects, like the library and museum.

"This is an opportunity and a challenge. Not all proposals that come to you will work. This is an experiment that can create some good," Douglas concluded.

Four other speakers supported the application.

Council, as is its custom when there is any opposition expressed at a public hearing, tabled third reading. The application may be dealt with at the Feb. 5 council meeting.

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