Function employee housing building approved 

Wait-listers will have a shot of owning an apartment in industrial park

Whistler’s industrial park is getting 30 apartment-style units of employee housing within the next year.

Council approved the project on Monday night despite several councillors saying the project doesn’t give them that "warm and fuzzy" feeling.

"I will go forward reluctantly," said Councillor Marianne Wade, adding she is concerned about the quality of life for the residents who will live in the building.

The apartment complex will be built at the northern end of Function Junction, backing onto the railway line. It’s this proximity to the rail line, among other things, which has Wade concerned.

As part of the deal the developer, Don Wensley and his business partner Mark Pedlow, have given the municipality a letter of credit for $75,000, which will go towards sidewalks and street lighting in the area.

Ultimately they hope to work with other Function landlords to help pay for other upgrades in the industrial park, much like the residents in Emerald Estates paid to get hooked up to the municipal sewer line.

At Monday’s meeting Councillor Ken Melamed again raised concerns about the lack of parking on the site. There will be 31 parking stalls for 30 units of housing.

"The fact is our residents do drive," he said. "There is a demand for parking space."

In a brief verbal report to council Bob MacPherson, the municipality’s general manager of planning and development, said there is a trend worldwide to reduce parking and staff believe the 31 stalls is adequate for the building.

MacPherson also highlighted the demand for the housing, as per an earlier request from council.

The Whistler Housing Authority has 41 people on a waitlist for this project, who are ready and willing to buy the units.

Councillor Kristi Wells emphasized a particular clause in the housing agreement, which requires that the owners must live in their units for at least eight years within a 10-year period. In other words, they can rent their unit to other resort employees but not for any longer than two cumulative years within a 10-year period. This is different from earlier WHA housing agreements.

Wells said she thought this was a good move and she asked staff to monitor it.

She also said this requirement may make a difference for potential purchasers.

The units will be sold at the WHA benchmark price of $175 per square foot.

Though the project moved forward with support from most councillors, Councillor Melamed opposed the project on principle, saying it was a protest vote. He has long been advocating a change to the employee works and services charge bylaw, which dictates how much employee housing must be built for a commercial project or the payment in lieu of that housing. This employee housing project is a result of the developers building a large commercial complex recently in the same area.

"(The bylaw) was out of date five years ago," said Melamed, adding that he won’t support anything based on the old formula in an effort to get staff and council to make changes to the bylaw.

The Function Junction units are expected to be available for residents by the spring/summer of 2006.

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