SLRD funding hangs in the balance 

Whistler waffles on reinstating planning monies

By Alison Taylor

Whistler council hasn’t reinstated its funding at the regional district despite the board’s decision to hold off on rezoning a development on the resort’s northern edge.

While extremely pleased with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s decision, Mayor Ken Melamed said there is still some time to decide whether Whistler still wants to continue to provide the lion’s share of the SLRD’s planning fund.

“We’ll continue to explore whether we want to be in the planning function or not,” said the mayor on the heels of the decision to defer the rezoning. “Council said they didn’t think it was bringing any benefit to Whistler so they’re going to continue to analyze it based on that assumption.”

In a calculated move, designed to send a strong message to the regional district, Whistler council made the abrupt decision to pull out of the planning budget in early September. Councillors were angry that the board was entertaining a rezoning application that would see a residential estate development on Whistler’s northern edge go from 64 homes to 108.

Whistler has long expressed opposition to the project. The SLRD board’s August decision to move ahead with the rezoning was the tipping point.

“When the board made their decision on Green River Estates it was a watershed (moment), it was a change in the way we perceive our relationship and our understanding of what needs to be done to keep that relationship healthy,” said Melamed.

SLRD board chair John Turner said this week that the board made the decision to defer the Green River Estates rezoning because of Whistler’s outstanding application for a boundary expansion over that area.

Because the rezoning application could complicate or delay a decision from the province on the boundary expansion, the board decided to delay the rezoning.

“What we were trying to do is to remove that point of conflict within our board,” said Turner. “We’ve got many other things that we want to proceed on and it’s important that we were able to move forward on those other things without having this overhanging everything.

“The real purpose behind (that decision) was so that we could move ahead as a board and not be dysfunctional.”

Turner said the board’s decision was not related to Whistler’s removal of funding.

He is optimistic and hopeful Whistler council will change its mind.

“What’s more important I think is the ongoing relationship between Whistler and Squamish and the SLRD,” said Turner. “And that’s important to all of us. My position on that is we can accomplish a heck of a lot more when we work together than if we’re working apart.”

Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, who instigated the move to withdraw funding, also said she was pleased with the SLRD’s decision. She is concerned, however, that the board changed its mind only because the rezoning application would slow down the boundary expansion and not because it was the wrong decision from Whistler’s planning perspective.

“We’ve got just very different members,” said Wilhelm-Morden.

“The needs and interests of the various member groups are quite drastically different.”

Turner admits that the Green River Estates project is a development where there appears to be no middle ground.

“This has really caused conflict because there’s different positions being taken here,” he said.

On the one hand Whistler is concerned about fringe development taking advantage of its services and resources. On the flip side, the development will be a boost to rural Area C. The developer has promised almost $2.5 million in recreational and cultural amenities to the SLRD if the rezoning is successful.

“On the issue of land use we seem to have a different opinion here,” said Turner.

Due to the timing of Whistler’s decision to pull the funding, the resort must still contribute to the 2007 budget. Whistler has time to consider whether it will be a part of the 2008 budget.

A meeting has been planned for Oct. 12 with municipal, provincial, SLRD staff and the developer.

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