BCR lands 

BC Rail eyeing development rights BC Rail, with more than 1,000 acres of RR1 land in Whistler, has approached the municipality about fulfilling some of its needs — such as affordable housing — in exchange for some development rights. Peter Martin, Development Manager for BCR Properties Ltd., said the subsidiary of BC Rail has been working on a program for its developable land for about the past five years. "Where there are opportunities for development we’d like to do it, or sell it to someone else to develop," he said this week. He said the timing of a March 4 letter to Whistler’s planning department, asking to explore options for BCR’s lands, has nothing to do with efforts to get BC Rail to pay property taxes or last week’s announcement of an interim payment schedule. Last week it was announced that BC Rail would pay $2 million to communities along the rail line this year. The payments, which will see Whistler get about $30,000, are an interim measure until a formula for property taxes is worked out. "The timing doesn’t relate to the last year of tax discussions," Martin said. He pointed to West Vancouver, where an abandoned right of way was recently subdivided into residential lots and a municipal park turned over to the city. "We’re trying to bring to a logical conclusion all our (non-rail) properties," he said. BCR has plans for lands in Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton. The company owns two large tracts of land in Whistler, both of which are zoned RR1, which allows few development rights. One parcel is 520 acres along the west side of Alta Lake, stretching from the lake to a point above the B.C. Hydro lines. Some of the land is needed for the railway right of way but it also includes the old saw mill site at the south end of Alta Lake. The other property is 560 acres adjacent to but outside the municipality’s northern boundary. That property, which includes 7,500 feet of frontage on the Green River, is partially occupied by a gravel pit. Martin said BCR is just trying to set up a meeting with the municipality’s planning department and so hasn’t made a specific proposal. However, the company has followed Whistler’s affordable housing problems and Martin feels it could offer something. "We’d like to do something with a portion of the west side lands. We think we could offer the community a large portion of the land in return. "The size of the land is such that we could develop in a sensitive way and turn back a lot of the land to the municipality as park." He added BCR would need to get some zoning in return. It could be for market housing, a railway station or something else. Martin suggested the lands at the north end of the municipality might be suitable for employee housing. He also noted BCR owns land along all four of the lakes in the Whistler Valley. Whistler Mayor Ted Nebbeling said Whistler council doesn’t want to get involved at this point. "We’re sitting back to see what they come up with," he said. BCR Properties, a subsidiary formed about 10 years ago which holds all BC Rail’s non-rail real estate, is building a shopping centre in Squamish, just south of the McDonald’s restaurant. It is also trying to negotiate a land swap with the province, giving up its lands in the Squamish estuary. In Pemberton, BCR owns a number of parcels, most of which have been left over as a result of previous subdivisions. Martin said the price of real estate in Pemberton has simply increased to the point where it is now economical to service the land and develop it. "In Pemberton we’re selling the land; In Whistler we’d like to develop it ourselves or with a partner," Martin said.

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