RMOW takes new approach to housing 

Proposals from private developers to be considered equally

click to enlarge IMAGE COURTESY OF THE RMOW - UNDER REVIEW  Housing projects from private developers (like this one proposed in Nordic) will be considered through a new "comparative evaluation process."
  • Image courtesy of the RMOW
  • UNDER REVIEW Housing projects from private developers (like this one proposed in Nordic) will be considered through a new "comparative evaluation process."

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is taking a new approach to employee housing proposals from private developers.

At its April 24 meeting, council endorsed a report recommending that such projects be considered through a "comparative evaluation process" that would give each proposal equal and consistent consideration.

The report was first set to be presented on April 10 before being pulled from the agenda.

"Staff is living and breathing these various guidelines and the process for implementing the recommendations from the Mayor's Task Force (on Resident Housing), but council ... the issue surfaces periodically (where) we just have to take time to get caught up to where staff is at," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

"The guidelines really are something that are going to evolve over time as we have experience with them, but I thought it was really important that we have an opportunity just to sit as a group, take a deep breath, and have some frank discussions in a workshop setting about where we were going with these things."

The guidelines in question stem from one of seven recommendations from the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing, and lay the groundwork for private developers to build resident-restricted rental housing.

But the RMOW has seen massive interest since introducing the guidelines in December.

In addition to two formal rezoning applications already at municipal hall (one proposing 74 units at 2077 Garibaldi Way and another 65 units at 7104 Nancy Greene Dr.) a third was submitted on March 13 by Murdoch and Co. Architecture and Planning, requesting an increase in density and gross floor area for a property at 1315 Cloudburst Dr. to allow for affordable housing.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg—several more developers and landowners have expressed interest, proposing everything from infill triplexes and dormitories to 300-unit, multi-family developments.

But taken together, the interest at muni hall far outweighs the RMOW's target of 500 beds from private developers by 2023.

Through the new process, projects will be evaluated against Official Community Plan policies.

Interested parties will be notified of the new approach, and will have until May 31 to submit a preliminary rezoning application.

A report will be brought to council in September for the consideration of next steps.

Any projects that get the green light from council for further review will be subject to a public information meeting before zoning amendment bylaws are presented to council. Public hearings would also be attached to any zoning amendment bylaws.

"We're trying to make it as uncomplicated as possible, yet on the other hand we want to ensure that we get the right product in the right locations," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"Staff is moving forward in a very serious way, not just with this recommendation, but with the six other recommendations from the task force as well. A lot of time and energy is being spent by staff on what is a pivotal issue for this town, and that's resident-restricted housing."

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