whistler south 

By Bob Barnett Encompassing all three of Intrawest’s development projects for the south end of Whistler under one bylaw effectively "puts a gun to our head," Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden says. Wilhelm-Morden made the comment Monday before council gave first and second reading to the Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy, which includes the Creekside redevelopment, The Peaks subdivision and the Spring Creek subdivision. The three projects, which represent nearly 1,700 bed units, offer a number of community amenities, including a graded elementary school site, a day care site and $300,000 toward the building, a site for a fire hall, parks, Valley Trail connections, floodproofing of Whistler Creek and employee housing. Whistler is desperate for another elementary school but the fact the Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy is an all-or-nothing package "puts a gun to our head, and that gun is the school," Wilhelm-Morden said. However, her motion to consider the three development parcels separately was defeated. The plans will go to a public hearing on Sept. 7. Intrawest’s rationale for having all three projects included under one bylaw is that the Creekside and Spring Creek projects aren’t economically viable unless the 60-lot, high-end Peaks subdivision is also approved. Wilhelm-Morden questioned that statement and suggested if there are aspects of the Creekside or Peaks developments someone doesn’t like they have to "hold their nose and approve this because we need the school." "The public hearing process, in my view, is meaningless because it’s all or nothing," she said. Wilhelm-Morden also questioned the ratio of public to private bed units in the Whistler South strategy. Of the 1,694 bed units proposed for Creekside, The Peaks and Spring Creek, 1,430 were originally meant to be developed as public beds, where use of the units is controlled through a rental pool covenant. However, under the comprehensive development strategy only 890 of the 1,694 bed units will be considered public. Wilhelm-Morden noted that Whistler Mountain developed many of its private bed units years ago, including at Alta Vista Pointe and Blueberry Hill, and councillors at that time said it would catch up with them. "Now we’re changing public bed units to private just because they ask. Maybe that’s not a problem, but I would like to know the value of one versus the other." She also noted that in the current plans Intrawest will be the sole landlord at Franz’s Trail, the small strip of retail shops planned for Creekside. Wilhelm-Morden said there had been some talk of providing private businesses an opportunity to buy into Franz’s Trail. "We saw how downtown Aspen was mostly controlled by three landlords," she said. "Local businesses had to move out and national chains moved in." Staff responded that the size of the retail spaces can be limited, which may make the spaces less attractive to national chains. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said that Keystone and Tremblant resorts had found that having one landlord actually produced a better mix of businesses, but agreed having locally-owned businesses in the shops would add to the strength of Creekside. Other councillors also had concerns about various aspects of the comprehensive development strategy but decided to move the plan forward to give members of the public an opportunity to be heard. Councillor Dave Kirk was concerned about The Peaks subdivision being above the 730 metre elevation limit for development and about the 2 kilometre access road to The Peaks that runs through Bayshores. A report from staff suggests the access road, which will cost about $5 million, is the most economical way of reaching The Peaks. Intrawest estimated the cost to reach the subdivision from Taluswood, with a series of bridges and/or tunnels, at $20 million. Councillor Ken Melamed called The Peaks, which will allow single family homes of between 4,000 and 7,000 square feet "a gluttonous approach to land use." The Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy also includes a development schedule, to ensure that the community amenities are delivered prior to or in conjunction with development. The graded school site is scheduled to be turned over to the school district by May of next year. Construction would start next summer and the school is scheduled to open in September of 2001. The bed unit densities for each of the Whistler Creek, Spring Creek and The Peaks developments are still estimates and could change slightly as further design details are finalized. Although it is intended that the Whistler South Comprehensive Development Strategy and Intrawest’s hotel on Lot E at Blackcomb will use all of Intrawest’s remaining 2,300 bed units there could be as many as 106 bed units left "floating." Municipal staff believe that even if 106 bed units remain floating after completion of the comprehensive development strategy a suitable site could be found to accommodate a small townhouse project or an 18-lot subdivision.

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