Jackson named to housing portfolio 

Feature excerpt: The RMOW Files

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Being assigned the Housing portfolio—the file overseeing one of the community's most pressing issues—must come with a certain amount of pressure.

Thankfully for Coun. Duane Jackson, assuming the file means he also inherits the work of the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing (struck by then-Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in 2016 to address the crisis).

Jackson says he spent the first few months just getting caught up on work already underway.

"It takes a little bit of time, as you can imagine," he says. "We've had one WHA (Whistler Housing Authority) meeting, so (I'm) getting up to speed on those current projects, which are great to see."

Currently underway on the WHA front are three builds: 1020 Legacy Way in Cheakamus Crossing (24 units, 53 beds) and 8350 Bear Paw Trail in Rainbow (20 units, 39 beds) will be ready in summer 2019, while 1330 Cloudburst Dr. in Cheakamus (45 units, 103 beds) is expected to be open in 2020.

In terms of the development of Cheakamus Crossing Phase 2, Jackson says council is reviewing plans, and the new iteration of the Whistler 2020 Development Corp. is set to meet shortly.

At an open house in October, the RMOW revealed it was eyeing at least 550 units for Cheakamus Phase 2, with a move-in date as early as spring 2021.

Former WDC president Eric Martin has offered to come back in an interim role, Jackson says, while the rest of the board is currently made up of Jackson, Neil Chrystal, Marla Zucht, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and Crompton.

"In the meantime, while we've been getting up to speed on council, RMOW staff have been working with Matthew Carter, the project manager that was working with the advisory group, to advance all of the necessary analysis of Parcel A (in Cheakamus) from an environmental and geotechnical and forestry road (standpoint).

"So we're doing all the due diligence to make sure we're in a position to consider a project and what that project may be."

Jackson says the public will likely hear more at a council meeting in the coming weeks, once the board has its first meeting and confirms its next steps.

Also waiting in the wings are the controversial employee housing proposals from private developers, which have drawn the ire of neighbours in three out of the five proposed builds.

Jackson says he expects staff to bring another report to council in the next month.

During the campaign, Jackson discussed the housing issue from an aerial, big-picture perspective; if you alleviate pressure in one area, it will logically free things up elsewhere, he believes.

Getting moving on Cheakamus Phase 2 would go a long way to greasing the wheels of the housing continuum, Jackson reasons.

"If you're thinking about things moving around, the WHA has a long ownership waitlist, and the WDC is going to be looking at opportunities to maybe advance some of those plans to deliver a range of housing types sooner than was previously anticipated," he says.

"If that's a possibility, then inevitably that might create vacancies elsewhere in the community, but you've got to take the time to build it."

A new 200-bed staff building, courtesy of Vail Resorts, will also help in that regard, though no formal rezoning application has been dropped off at municipal hall to date.

Unlike its predecessor, the new WDC is tasked with looking at the potential of all legacy lands in Whistler—an exciting prospect for those planning Whistler's housing future.

"I think once we get past our immediate goal of making sure that we're able to progress something this year, or advance something this year, then we start looking at the medium-term opportunities," Jackson says.

"And then beyond that you see the potential for the strategic planning to look at the longer-term opportunities, and that's something I think we can spend more time at. We just can't do it all at once."

You can reach Jackson at 604-935-8228 or djackson@whistler.ca.

Read the full-length feature 'The RMOW Files' here.

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