Melamed challenges council on Callaghan 

Official Community Plan amendment proposed for residential housing in the Callaghan

Going with his gut feeling, Councillor Ken Melamed opposed the first step in developing the Callaghan Valley for residential employee housing at the last council meeting before the municipal elections.

"The Callaghan and the Olympics will become a catalyst for a large city on the outskirts of Whistler," he argued passionately at Monday’s meeting.

"All we’ll have succeeded in doing is abandoning any efforts to salvage Whistler. We’ll have a new town, possibly up to 10,000 people living in the Callaghan," he later added.

Melamed’s was the lone dissenting voice against the bylaw to amend the Official Community Plan, just as it was against Whistler endorsing the Olympic bid at council’s Oct. 21 meeting.

On Monday night council gave first and second reading to the bylaw to amend the Official Community Plan that would permit the development of residential housing in the Callaghan Valley and the South Cheakamus Bench near the town dump, across the highway from Function Junction.

The OCP as it currently stands does not envision any development on those sites.

"Ten years ago when the community plan was written they weren’t anticipated to be development areas," said Bob MacPherson, the interim general manager, planning and development services for the municipality.

"(The OCP) doesn’t prohibit development. It doesn’t enable it either."

The proposed bylaw does not necessarily mean that the sites will be developed, he added.

"Just to be clear, this is a community plan amendment," said MacPherson.

"It doesn’t allow someone to come in and apply for a building permit for this tomorrow."

The recommendation to amend the OCP comes after three years of discussions with the province for a community land bank where resident housing and community facilities could be located.

Recently the province assured Whistler that the 300-acre Callaghan site would be given to the municipality as a land bank.

The site is also the top choice for the athletes village for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, with the South Cheakamus as the second choice.

Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said developing the Callaghan is a decision that must be put to the community, adding that Monday’s proposed OCP amendment is just a technicality.

"There is no suggestion by anyone on this council that we have any preconceived ideas," he said, cutting off Melamed.

"The community is in full control of this process."

"I don’t think that we should be sitting and giving the land back to the province," said Councillor Nick Davies, adding that there may be an opportunity down the road to trade the land for crown land closer to the village.

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