MAC housing could be part of Olympic legacy 

Whistler's Mature Action Committee (MAC) has come a long way since its last AGM.

This year the meeting was held at the new Millennium Place, as opposed to the home of one of the members. This year attendance almost doubled, with close to 40 people showing up. And this year was also marked with two guest speakers – Rob Hallam, the General Manager of Millennium Place and Whistler's mayor, Hugh O'Reilly.

Having just returned from visiting his mother in a retirement home in Arizona, O'Reilly was eager to talk about Whistler's seniors and their future in the community.

"You can't have a strong resort without a strong community," he said. "People of retirement age add so much value to the community."

The mayor was quick to commend the MAC board for their progress throughout the past year. Specifically he pointed to all the work that was done lobbying council members.

On Nov. 19, council unanimously passed a resolution in support of MAC. Retirement housing will now be treated like restricted resident housing and exempt from the municipal bed unit cap.

"We feel that we have captured the attention and support of the municipality," said MAC chair Gordon Leidal.

Now, the committee is focused on finding a site to develop some seniors’ housing. During the course of the past year, MAC hired a planning consultant who identified two potential sites in Whistler that would be suitable for MAC's needs.

The first site has been red flagged due to environmental concerns, said O'Reilly. And the second site, at the north end of Alpine, has been earmarked by the municipality for a potential school.

O'Reilly said there might be opportunities to develop both a school and a retirement complex on the Alpine site in the future, but council would not commit to a piece of land at this time.

While he did not dismiss either site entirely as an opportunity for a retirement complex, O'Reilly was encouraging the audience to wait and see what would result from the Olympic Bid Book, due out in the spring.

"Council is working on your behalf in different ways," he said. "We're developing the Legacy Package to see what the province can commit to (in terms of land) even if we lose the bid."

O'Reilly also referred to the plans for an Olympic Village that would house up to 2,500 people should the bid be successful.

"It's a large parcel (of land), reasonably serviceable," he said. "It's a new site that hasn't been considered by MAC yet."

Being bound to the bid timeline however, is a concern for some members. And as the mayor was reminded at the meeting, time is of the essence for some members.

"We're marking time right now. We're standing in the same place with our feet going up and down," said MAC member Gordon Tomalty.

The emphasis at the AGM was the urgent need to find a site as soon as possible.

"We need the land designated so that we know what we're working with and we can actually go out and look for a developer," said Tomalty.

Eight new members signed up at the AGM last week. Current membership levels fluctuate at around 40.

In order to qualify for a spot in the retirement complex, a person must be at least 55 years old and a member of MAC for two consecutive years. In addition, the prospective occupant must have lived in Whistler as their principal residence for a minimum of five years.

"The aging population is growing. This is a huge market," said O'Reilly.

The mayor did not say how many retirees were living in Whistler at the moment but over the longer term, the municipality would not be able to meet the demand, he said.


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