Houghton rezoning sparks debate 

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Councillor Dave Kirk also opposed third reading but for different reasons.

"This is the first time this type of application has come to council under this (Local Government Act) legislation," Kirk said. "I’m not sure the value we’re receiving in this application is appropriate and we don’t have ground rules. I suggest we need that discussion before dealing with this."

Kirk said he had been advised by members of the Urban Development Institute and local real estate agents that Whistler was "on a very slippery slope" if it approves the Houghtons’ application before establishing ground rules.

Kirk tried several times to get discussion going on his point but the closest he came was Councillor Kristi Wells’ response.

"This is not a new process, it’s allowed under the Local Government Act," Wells said. "We have almost a shopping list (of community amenities) in the OCP. Even taking cash is not new."

Wells cited council’s adoption of Intrawest’s Whistler South plan which also included a cash contribution to the Spring Creek day care.

Wells also pointed out the Vision document states Whistler will celebrate the diversity of its people. "It’s a constant balance – the resort, the community, affordability, income. I don’t think this particular rezoning threatens any of our principles," Wells said. "We’ve countered a lot of the issues Vail and Aspen have faced already."

What Whistler hasn’t addressed, councillors agreed, was potential problems of affordability and gentrification brought about by tear-downs and lot consolidation. Wells suggested the municipality should also look at increasing the number of bed units large homes count for and consider an employee works and services charge on large homes.

Councillors Ted Milner and Stephanie Sloan also supported the rezoning application, which prompted Melamed to say he was getting a "feeling of abandonment" from council.

"If we continue down this path families like mine won’t be able to live here," Melamed said. "The value of my home has no value if I can’t afford to live in it.

"People are leaving town – if you don’t see it you’re not looking."

Melamed then apologized to community members who support his position on large homes.

"I apologize because I couldn’t find the arguments to convince other council members."

O’Reilly attempted to bridge the gap by saying all council members were trying to achieve the same outcome, they were just interpreting things differently.

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