Developer considers suing RMOW over Mons rezoning 

Council sends proposal back to staff at final adoption with more questions, concerns

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The time for talking with municipal staff about the Mons Road industrial rezoning is likely over for developer Steve Bayly; he's reviewing his options, including litigation for financial damages.

On Tuesday, council put the brakes on final approval of his Mons development.

With questions and concerns, council sent the project back to staff for answers when considering the passage of one of the largest projects to come before them this year.

But after five years of municipal wrangling, three successive councils dealing with the project, and more than $2 million in costs to meet the municipality's requirements, Bayly has had enough.

"We have severe financial consequences from this action," said Bayly late Tuesday evening after walking out of a council meeting when it appeared his rezoning would not make it to final adoption.

The large-scale rezoning project was set to transform the northern end of Whistler with an industrial zone on a 6.5 hectare (16 acre) site for transportation, infrastructure and civic uses.

Bayly and his business partner, fellow businessman Nigel Woods, were ready to start building the new road on site this week.

All their conditions were met, rights of way secured, an easement secured from BC Hydro. Those are all void now as the terms were not met this week.

"We spent all this money and all this time living up to the conditions they (the municipality) imposed," said Bayly, of the conditions set at third reading in 2009.

What remained were fourth readings of the bylaws, typically a quick pass from the council table given that it has considered first and second readings of the bylaws, a public hearing, and then third readings.

But this council finds itself in a tricky situation, inheriting a development project largely approved by previous councils, with just final adoption of the bylaws outstanding.

In 2008 when council of the day first saw the project, then-Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden voted against it. It passed in a five to two vote. At the October 2009 public hearing, she also spoke out against it as a private citizen. This was a revised rezoning initiated and paid for by the RMOW. The council vote was six to one in favour.

Wilhelm-Morden commented at the time on a lack of a clear plan for the proposed space and the concern over the many possibilities that would fit within the restrictions of the bylaw. It appears those concerns remain, not only for now Mayor Wilhelm-Morden, but also the rest of council.

"The concern I have is the potential size of the build out of the buildings," said Councillor John Grills, wanting to know what the land would look like in five years.

Staff informed council that there was potential at maximum build out of roughly 50,000 square metres (or more than half a million square feet). There is no cap on that maximum development. When later asked why there was no cap, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said simply: "I don't know."

Bayly later called that 500,000 square foot number "a ruse" designed to create delays. That is the absolute maximum build if every buildable square foot had a three-storey building, which is beyond anything reasonable, he said.

Councillor Duane Jackson also raised issues about the type of uses allowed — would it compete with vacant space in Function Junction.

"What I'm struggling with... is things that potentially create a competition," he said.

Among the allowed uses in the rezoning are: fuel services, motor vehicle maintenance and storage facility, landscaping services, indoor and outdoor recreation and taxi dispatch and storage yard.

"Because we don't have the detail we can only speculate," said Councillor Jayson Faulkner.

When it appeared there was dissension in the council ranks against staff's recommendation to approve the bylaw, the mayor said: "I guess the question is: what do we do next?" Council agreed to put it back in staff's hands to get more information.

"It's not to pour cold water all over the concept," said Faulkner. "There's just a lot of details that I just don't understand and I haven't seen anywhere." He couldn't in good conscience move it ahead, he said.

But council was poorly informed Tuesday night, said Bayly, adding he feels his project is being delayed while another, namely BC Transit's, is quickly moving ahead.

"It seems to me we're knocked off the rails, while BC Transit is fast-tracked," said Bayly. He was referring to the neighbouring transit facility, which was approved by council at the same meeting for a rezoning to allow a third-party bus company to rent space at the site. It was in direct competition to his project, he said.

"It's tough when the approving authority (RMOW) is in direct competition."

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