Rainbow’s commercial component a concern 

Wells calls for a new Memorandum of Understanding with developer

For the first time Tuesday council got a look at the commercial component proposed at the Rainbow development, and council members did not like what they saw.

The proposed grocery store, which is comparable in size to the Creekside Market, is "completely out of whack" for Rainbow, said Councillor Ken Melamed.

And the grocery store is just a portion of the overall commercial development slated to go at the core of the residential community.

Melamed was not alone in his concerns.

Councillors Marianne Wade and Gordon McKeever also expressed their reservations about the commercial component, which includes the 7,500 square foot grocery store, a 4,000 square foot neighbourhood restaurant/pub (roughly the size of Hoz’s), a 5,000 square foot service commercial centre including a bank, post office and laundry mat, and a 1,000 square foot café. In addition, there are plans for a gas station on site. That’s close to 20,000 square feet of commercial space, which may not be what council had in mind for the north end of town.

"I am a little worried about the size of it," said Wade, adding that her original vision was along the lines of a smaller concept much like the commercial building in Alpine Meadows with its market and bakery/restaurant.

"I worry about that in the larger context (of the whole resort)."

Local planner Brent Harley, who presented updated plans of the development to council on Tuesday night, said the Memorandum of Understanding between the developer and the municipality, signed in March this year, calls for an "appropriately sized local service commercial component."

"The intent is to create that focal point for the neighbourhood," he said.

Harley referenced a study that said the project could support 33,000 square feet of commercial.

He also reminded council that 85 per cent of this project would be employee housing, which means unlike other Whistler neighbourboods, the vast majority of these homes will be occupied year-round.

"It doesn’t happen anywhere else in Whistler," he said.

The size of the commercial component is just one of a number of outstanding issues yet to be resolved in the Rainbow project.

Harley also explained that the configuration of the single-family employee housing lots has changed slightly. Instead of clustered nodes, the lots have been separated. The change is due in part to financial arrangements made in the MOU.

Council, however, was supportive of the clustered development and Councillor Nick Davies asked if they could take another look at it.

Councillor Kristi Wells said she was "shocked" the developer was no longer planning to build a self-sufficient "green" wastewater treatment plant at the site. Instead staff is investigating the municipal sewer system to see if there is capacity for the Rainbow project in the pipes and at the sewage treatment plant.

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