Three-part proposal would add 500 employee beds 

A three-part development proposal working its way through municipal hall could see 150 employee housing units built at Cheakamus North, an 18 acre site between the Spring Creek subdivision and Highway 99, and straddling Spring Creek itself.

The proposal, by Whistler company Vision Pacific Contracting and Design, would include a bridge over Spring Creek, connecting Millar’s Pond with the Spring Creek subdivision.

To finance the employee housing, Vision Pacific is requesting zoning for 11 single family homes at the north end of White Gold Estates and seven on what’s known as The Grove in Whistler Cay.

"We haven’t seen a whole bunch of this, employee housing of this magnitude and employee housing that will benefit the smaller businesses," said Vision Pacific’s Tim Regan, who has been working on the project for the last year.

"I’m an avid Whistlerite and I see this as the only viable way to build employee housing," Regan added.

The proposal for Cheakamus North is for 500 employee beds – as much employee housing as the 19 Mile Creek, Spruce Grove and Treetops projects combined. The housing would be privately owned, by the developer, but leased at the Whistler Housing Authority’s standard employee rental rates.

"We’re targeting the essential services, the schools, the day care, the nurses," Regan said. "We’re looking for a commitment from (the employers), but there’s no up-front capital involved."

A mix of unit types are proposed, with the buildings having small footprints to fit with the grades and contours of the site.

Half of the Cheakamus North site would be dedicated as a nature reserve. A commercial building of approximately 8,000 square feet to serve residents of the area is also part of the plan. A small grocery store, video rental business and perhaps some office space and a day care are part of the concept. There would also be 10 market townhomes in the project.

"The whole premise of the project is that the lots on the two other sites would finance the employee housing," said Regan, who owns all three of the properties.

The White Gold and Crabapple sites, like Cheakamus North, require rezoning. The White Gold site, which is accessed from Fitzsimmons Road North and is to be called Lost Lake Estates, is currently zoned for three lots but Regan’s plans are for 11 lots, ranging in size from 0.5 acres to 1.5 acres. The lots would allow homes of 5,000 square feet. The majority of trees on the site would be retained.

The Crabapple site is 10 acres and current zoning allows two houses. Regan would like to put seven houses of up to 5,000 square feet each on the site and dedicate 4.5 acres to a nature reserve. The Crabapple component of the proposal also includes transferring some land to the municipality for the Valley Trail, preservation of wetlands, and extensive rehabilitation and enhancement of fish habitat. The work would also alleviate some flood issues for the neighbourhood.

Regan said he has a couple of options for acquiring bed units for The Grove and Lost Lake Estates developments.

The project has been reviewed by the municipality’s Advisory Planning Committee and Design Panel, which generally supported the concept. It is being reviewed again later this month and is expected to go to council in April or May.

Regan said if he can get started on Cheakamus North by the end of June some of the employee housing could be available by next February or March.

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