MAC may have critical mass 

Members appear ready to put money towards seniors housing

About 16 Whistler elders have indicated they are prepared to cough up and commit cash – some of which may be non-refundable – to the planning stages of an affordable seniors housing complex.

Of that number, about 12 have said they would be interested in moving into the first phase of a seniors development in about five years from now.

These were some of the results to come out of a survey initiated by Whistler’s Mature Action Committee in September, but whether the numbers represent the critical mass needed to make the project work still remains to be seen.

"Our feeling is a critical mass for the first phase might be in the order of about 15 and it would appear those numbers are there," said MAC’s Gordon Leidal.

"And we think that if we have the right project and things started moving forward in a positive way, other people would come forward too," he noted. "Obviously some people are ready to move tomorrow but not in the kinds of numbers we need."

MAC was founded in 1993 with the sole purpose of creating a housing complex so that Whistler’s seniors could retire in place. But at the October AGM, new chair Gord Tomalty told members that if MAC didn’t get a core group of members committed to helping finance the first phase of a housing project, the organization would die.

The results of the survey are felt to be key. Leidal said the survey seems to show the core group is now in place and that members have given MAC the mandate to proceed with securing a site and planning.

"We are just getting out of the starting block…. It’s not going to be an easy road," conceded Leidal. "It’s a long shot and its going to take time but it will be good for Whistler in the long run."

Some of MAC’s key members have already packed their bags and left town including Paul and Jane Burrows.

Past MAC chair Ted Ralfe has also left, albeit temporarily, to test the waters of Fernie. Others, like current chair Gord Tomalty and his wife Eileen, are coping with health problems that have necessitated a temporarily move closer to Lower Mainland medical care, noted Leidal.

"I will be trying to move things forward in my spare time."

Leidal said the next step is to arrange a meeting with MAC’s consultant Maryanne Wade and with the Whistler Housing Authority.

"Once we identify the right property we would want to start talking to the municipality and the planning department and going through a rezoning and that all takes time."

One of the parcels of land under MAC consideration was the Den Duyf property in White Gold, behind a proposed church. That, however, has now been sold. Leidal said his feeling is that it is now off the table.

MAC is particularly interested in a piece of land on the Symons’ Edgewater property. "That property really excites members," said Leidal. "It is just a wonderful spot. It would be hard to find anything better but we know, on the environmental side, that it’s a very sensitive property. There are a lot of really difficult issues to address there."

Leidal said aiming to get something into the ground in five years is probably a realistic time frame.

MAC has abut 45 paid-up members, many of whom are part of a couple. The group has approved a set of qualification requirements for occupancy of units in the retirement complex.

At least one partner of a couple or an individual must be 55 years of age or older. Whistler must have been their principal residence for at least five consecutive years and they must have been MAC members in good standing for at least two consecutive years immediately preceding occupancy.

Among other requirements, at least one partner must have worked or contributed to Whistler in some way for at least five of his or her last six years of employment before retirement.

MAC said this is to satisfy the housing authority and councillors that the complex will not serve to attract retirees from other areas. Second homeowners and part-timers will not qualify.

The housing complex will also include a rental component for seniors.

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