Fringe development worries Whistler 

Concerns raised about sewage

Whistler has found another reason to express its opposition to an ongoing development on the outside edge of its northern boundaries.

But this time their concerns aren’t based on principle, rather the fact that developers of the Green River Estates want to build a standalone sewage treatment plant to service the 64 single family homes in the subdivision. This has raised several unanswered questions for staff and council of the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

"From the earliest days we tried to stop this subdivision because we didn’t feel it was appropriate," Mayor Ken Melamed said this week. "We knew it was going to cause huge problems for us."

He calls it "ambush development" – so called because the developers can take advantage of all that Whistler has to offer but not pay resort property taxes.

But David Ehrhardt, spokesperson for the development, said they are trying to create a self-sustaining community that would not mooch from Whistler.

In order to keep the development small and compact, the homes are located in a previously disturbed section of the developer’s 600 acres of land.

In order to put in septic fields, you need much larger parcels of land, Ehrhardt explained.

"Your ability to increase your density and leave more areas of the site undisturbed is negated," he said.

He calls the $4 million sewage plant a class A processing facility that would be manned on a daily basis.

Council and staff, however, are not convinced this is the most sustainable option.

The treated effluent would be discharged into the Green River, an idea that was unpalatable to communities to the north when Whistler considered it as part of its 1992 Liquid Waste Management Plan.

Bob MacPherson, general manager of planning and development at the RMOW, noted in a letter to the provincial Integrated Land Management Bureau that the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and the village of Pemberton were not sent referrals on the sewage plant.

Councillor Ekhard Zeidler picked up on this point at Monday’s council meeting, and did not mince his words about the ILMB and its "haphazard way of making referrals."

"It’s just plain incompetence on their part," said Zeidler.

Officials with ILBM said it was an oversight Wednesday and have since sent referrals to the SLRD and Pemberton.

Another worry on council’s mind was what happens if the plant falls into disrepair? Who would be responsible for its ongoing maintenance?

The land in question would be included within Whistler’s boundaries if a proposed boundary expansion goes ahead. The proposed boundary expansion was presented several years ago as one of the legacies Whistler could expect in return for being part of the Olympic bid.

When asked about the two year old boundary expansion application the mayor said they were still waiting for approval, or an agreement not to oppose the expansion, from First Nations.

Council has debated dropping the northern section from its expansion plans but at this point, the north is still included.

"We want staff to find a way to give security on this and we still want to bring it into the boundaries because we believe that Whistler is better able to oversee the subdivision in the long run," said Melamed. "Given that the people in that subdivision are going to be using Whistler services over the years, (it’s) better to have them in than out."

In addition to a sewage plant, the developer has also applied for a water license to develop a small Independent Power Project on Wedgemount Creek.

"We have our own sewer and water systems and part of our sustainability program would be that we also see the opportunity to generate sufficient electricity to meet what we would be calling for if it was a conventional hydro hook up," said Ehrhardt.

"It’s quite small. It’s basically geared towards just our consumption within the subdivision."

Staff has planned a meeting with the province in September to discuss some of its outstanding concerns.

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