Local home builders chide council over Mons delays 

CHBA president said the move is sending the wrong message to investors

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Council may bill itself as "open for business" but it is sending a negative message to potential investors looking to buy into Whistler, according to the president of the local home builders' association.

In a recent letter to mayor and council, Eric Prall, president of the Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA) — Sea to Sky, called out council over its delay in giving final rezoning approval to the large Mons Road development last month.

"The purpose of the letter was to comment on the development approvals process," said Prall. "It doesn't have anything to do with the pros and cons of any development. It's merely on the process."

The Mons Road rezoning, on the west side of the highway north of Nesters, was given third reading in November 2011, one of the last things the outgoing council did before the election.

The rezoning is set to transform an empty 6.5 hectare (16 acre) site to an industrial zone for transportation, infrastructure, and civic uses. It's the largest project considered by the council to date.

On August 21, as it was set to adopt the rezoning bylaws at fourth reading, council sent it back to municipal staff with more questions and concerns.

"Typically when a development receives third reading... it's an agreement in principal," said Prall. "To send the final rezoning and fourth reading back to staff sends a negative message really to anyone who wants to invest in Whistler. One of CHBA's mandates is to encourage development and the jobs that it brings to the corridor."

He said it was critical that as an industry, developers can rely on local government to follow a due and transparent process.

Mons Road developer Steve Bayly, who has threatened to sue the municipality over the handling of his development last month, was reticent to speak to the issue as there are ongoing talks with municipal staff over the rezoning.

"This was an initiative of the home builders and not Nigel and I," he said, referring to his business partner Nigel Woods.

Bayly said he is not a member of CHBA — Sea to Sky. He declined to comment on the matter any further.

When asked if he had sympathy for council, given as it has inherited the situation and is coming into the process at the eleventh hour, Prall simply said: "No. It's the process."

While Prall's letter outlined the serious concerns over due process, he also praised the work of this council and it's commitment to public engagement, and said CHBA was pleased with the mayor's quest for greater transparency and economic diversification.

"We wish to reiterate that it is of critical importance for the council and mayor to realize that revisiting decisions made by previous councils and any action construed or perceived as an attempt to circumvent due process will be very damaging to any efforts to engage the development community and attract investment," Prall wrote.

"We implore you to seriously consider the message the Resort Municipality of Whistler is sending to the development industry if a due process is not followed and this project is not allowed to proceed, and hope that you will act accordingly in this matter."

The Mons rezoning is on next week's council agenda.

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