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19 mile hearing

Whistler council will accept, reject or modify the 19 Mile Creek employee housing proposal at its March 23 meeting, but after the sometimes bitter opposition expressed at Monday’s three-hour public hearing the project is unlikely to go ahead in its current configuration. Opposition to the proposed 84 units ranged from a video showing the devastating effect of the 1980 19 Mile Creek flood, to a survey commissioned by some Alpine Meadows residents (57 per cent of Alpine property owners who responded opposed the project, 18 per cent were in favour; 59 per cent of respondents didn’t think it was appropriate for the neighbourhood, 14 per cent thought it was appropriate), to a few comments that might have been slanderous if they had been directed at individuals rather than broadly at "employees." The majority of opponents, however, were concerned with three or four issues: the size and density of the project, the increase in traffic it would generate, the potential for a disastrous flood and concern that the rental portion of the project is so close to Whistler Secondary and the Alpine Meadows Market, where students from the high school gather. While the present project, which includes 60 townhouse units and 24 rental apartments, has been scaled back from the original proposal 16 months ago, opponents still don’t like the density or the fact that it is in Alpine Meadows. Although it is across the street from several other townhouse projects, the vast majority of Alpine Meadows is single family housing. "This doesn’t fit with most of the rest of Alpine," said Sean O’Neail. "We chose Alpine because of the its character. This changes the subdivision." Some of the more than 150 people present at the Chateau Whistler for Monday’s public hearing simply didn’t believe the developer’s traffic consultants. "This is an accident waiting to happen," said Alix Nicol. "The safety of our children, our future, is in your hands." Several people noted that the Ministry of Environment has yet to put in writing its approval of the proposed flood-mitigation measures, although municipal planner Mike Purcell said verbal assurance from the ministry had been received again that day and final approval would come once the berms were built. Paul Burrows brought up the "real or perceived danger of subversion of the public process due to the unfortunate symbiotic relationship between the development team, certain members of council and staff, and the Whistler Housing Authority." Burrows called the project flawed and dangerous and said studies done by the developer’s consultants have had little or no input from staff "to relate these partisan reports to the larger picture." Amidst the arguments against the project there were some people who spoke in favour, or at least in favour of employee housing. Two residents of the Millar’s Ridge employee housing project — which one Alpine resident had earlier called a "ghetto army camp" — took the time to speak about what it meant to them to be given the opportunity to purchase a townhouse in Whistler. "People who live (in these projects) are people who want to put down stakes in the community," said one Millar’s Ridge resident. "At Millar’s Ridge, our property management company couldn’t believe how many people wanted to be on the strata council — that’s because we care!" said another resident. The only person who spoke as an employer of prospective residents of the 19 Mile Creek project was John Grills, who lives in Alpine Meadows. "I feel for many Alpine residents’ concerns," Grills said. "But I’m on both sides of the issue. As an employer, I can’t afford to pay my employees enough for them to buy their own homes (at market value). "The people in Alpine who are worried about their property value... The people in Alpine have done very well by Whistler’s success," Grills said. "My staff can move up to mid-management if they have a chance to put down roots in the community."

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