First Nations looking for partner to build gas station, housing 

Few community members attended Monday’s open house on the two legacy land parcels

Following a quiet open house regarding two parcels of land owned jointly by Squamish and Lil’wat, the two First Nation groups are now looking for a developer to build a cluster of market houses in Alpine North and a gas station in Function Junction.

“We are not working with a developer at the moment,” said Roger Lundie, Chief Financial Officer for the Lil’wat Nation Mont Currie Band.

“We decided to proceed without the advantage of a developer because we did not want a developer messing things up with our relationship with the RMOW.

“Now, I think we feel confident that we can entertain some joint ventures or some sorts of arrangements with developers, and we will be talking to developers.”

Lundie added that by next spring, the First Nations hope to have an agreement with a developer and be set to break ground and begin construction. The service station is expected to be open by 2010.

While Whistler Council has yet to fully debate the proposal, the First Nations are hoping council will approve the projects by November, prior to the municipal election.

“We are hoping that it could be expedited quickly so that the First Nations could realize some of the gains that come with those parcels,” said Crosland Doak, who is part of the consulting group for the two projects.

“We did not see that it was a complex application and hope that it could be processed in that time period, recognizing that things tend to get a little political on the doorstep of an election.”

Such an ambitious timeline looked feasible during the July 14 open house. Few community members attended, and almost no concerns were voiced during the three-hour event at the Istken Hall at the newly built Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.

Project manager Kristi Wells said a low turnout typically means the community is not acutely concerned with the project.

Other stakeholders, including Squamish Chief Gibby Jacob, echoed that sentiment.

“The process obviously has to run its course, but I am confident that people will see — at least the people who showed up — the quality of work that we can do and that the objectives that we had set out were obtained,” he said.

Jacob added both First Nations want to make sure the Whistler community remains positive about the proposals.

“We want to continue building a positive relationship with the residents and community of Whistler, and we are trying to do that in all areas with the municipal government. We just want to be positive about it.

“One of the things we talked about in the very early stages of the Legacy Land Agreement is we are not going to be like other developers who come in and disappear. We are there, we are building our presence in the Whistler area, and we are going to stay there.”

The Legacy Land Agreement, signed in 2002 with the province of B.C., gives the First Nations 120 hectares (300 acres) of Crown Land, distributed over seven separate parcels, within Whistler Valley to pursue economic and cultural development.

Revenue from development of these parcels is intended to help offset the costs of the new cultural centre, which officially opened its doors Thursday, July 17.

The Alpine North and Function Junction projects are the first proposals on the First Nations’ land to move forward, although a third development on a piece of land across the highway from Alta Vista is also in the works.

The Alta Vista application to build townhouses was not included in Monday’s open house following a decision last week by Whistler council. Both municipal staff and council said that they understood all the 458 bed units granted to the First Nations would go on the Alpine North property.

Information boards at this week’s open house stated that the Alta Vista site is “subject to future processing” and that the proposed use has “yet to be determined”.

Lundie added the only negative comment he heard during the open house was about the allocation of bed units.

“We are trying to deal with that. It is a fine line balancing out the allocation of bed units to properties to maximize revenue and also take full consideration of the environmental aspects of the property,” he said.

“We are working together with RMOW on it, and we’ll come up with a solution.”

The information panels on the First Nations’ plans will remain on display in the cultural centre for the next few weeks.

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