No moratorium for infill housing 

Variances need council approval Pre-planning

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Infill housing remains open for applications at municipal hall.

While Whistler council voted on March 15 to place a moratorium on the policy, it turns out that council doesn't actually have the authority to do so.

"What we'd have to do is roll back the infill zone that's already there," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden after the April 19 council meeting.

To do that, council would have to undertake a full rezoning process, including a public hearing — but the intent of the moratorium was not to wipe out infill housing altogether, the mayor said.

"Really, with making that motion, it was simply to send out a message to the community that infill housing has some significant issues attached to it, so if you were at all thinking about buying a lot for the purpose of infill housing, go and talk to staff and talk to us before you do that."

The moratorium motion was originally introduced after council debated an infill application that needed a Development Variance Permit (DVP). Though the applicants had put a significant amount of time and money into their application, the DVP brought the matter before council, which found too many questions attached to the proposal to approve it.

At the April 19 meeting, staff brought forward a recommendation based on council's previous moratorium motion.

The recommendation keeps the Residential Infill 1 zone intact, but requires any infill application that requires a DVP to be brought before council before detailed planning begins.

The recommendation also states that the Resort Municipality of Whistler will collaborate with the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) on further analysis of resident housing needs for the community.

Coun. Jack Crompton added an amendment to the resolution to ensure that staff works with the WHA to "significantly increase the availability of affordable housing."

"I think that we have a serious housing issue and I hope that all tools are on the table, including extending infill to other neighbourhoods," Crompton said.

Coun. Andree Janyk supported the amendment, citing community concern over the lack of market-housing options for growing families.

"We need to address that as well, so families can stay here and feel comfortable that they can move and allow their families to grow," Janyk said.

Coun. Sue Maxwell said infill zoning could prove helpful for local seniors wanting to age in Whistler, who may have built their retirement plans around their property.

"Their only option is to move to perhaps another community or somewhere significantly smaller," Maxwell said.

"Whereas if we allow infill, that would give them the option to be able to realize some of the value of their property and not have to move away from all their connections."

Because it's been more than 30 days since the previous infill application's DVP was denied, there is no chance to revisit the vote, noted Coun. Jen Ford.

Ford voted against approving the DVP the first time around.

"To the family that have gone through this process, I am sorry," she said.

"We know there is a problem, we know that there is a crisis here for housing, and a vast gap between affordable and market housing... putting more families into the limited land that we have, when there is a clear need in the community, needs to be seriously considered."

Coun. Steve Anderson said he agreed with some of his colleagues' comments, but would like to see the entire policy revisited.

"I really feel a better formula should be adopted for the infill, and I think we should revisit this," Anderson said. "I don't think it's a quick fix."

Wilhelm-Morden said she shares some of the same concerns as Anderson, and views the infill policy as "probably the least effective tool that we have."

"We've got 300 acres of land bank in Cheakamus Crossing, why would we be slicing and dicing old neighbourhoods?" she said.

Development of the land bank is in the hands of the Whistler Development Corporation, the mayor said after the meeting.

"My understanding is that there is some preliminary investigation going on," she said. "I understand the desperate need that many people have for Resident Restricted housing. We are in a state right now where it is the major concern for many people in town. I get that," she added.

"I personally am not a fan of infill housing. Others on council are, and it's worth looking at again, perhaps expanding, but I want to hear from community members about that."



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