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A wording error in the official notice of the Barnfield Farm rezoning application meant Monday’s scheduled public hearing became an information meeting, but it still produced more support for an employee housing project than has been seen in some time in Whistler. A new public hearing will be held May 21 for the Barnfield Farm proposal, which includes 23 single family employee housing lots and eight large market lots on five parcels owned by McDonald’s of Canada. Last year the land, between the Whistler Cay subdivision and Adventures West, was the subject of the so-called Freestyle proposal. "This plan respects the environmental concerns of the site," environmental consultant Dave Williamson told the packed council chambers. Williamson’s firm did the environmental assessment of the Freestyle proposal. Local developers Jon Paine and Steve Bayly retained Williamson and designed their Barnfield Farm proposal around the consultants’ recommendations. An environmental impact assessment has also been completed on the site. A number of people spoke about the importance of employee housing to Whistler’s future. "We need staff who can afford to live here," Cam Watson said. "In the future it’s going to get more difficult. This (project) encourages families. "We’re losing good people in this community... I don’t know if you’re going to get a better proposal than this." However, a number of residents of Beaver Lane objected to the fact there was no buffer between their lots and eight of the single family employee lots. Barry Johnston, noting the proposed wildlife corridor acted as a buffer between the employee housing lots and the Alta Lake Resort properties, said: "It seems there’s more consideration for the bears and Adventures West (residents) than the single family lot owners." Paine responded that the wildlife corridor was put between Alta Lake Resort and the employee lots to maintain the continuity of the corridor on both sides of Crabapple Drive. Suzanne Johnston noted the land is zoned RR1. "That’s what we bought our land next to, that’s what we want to see," she said. Bayly said that the proposal puts single family lots adjacent to existing single family lots. "We are trying to be sensitive." Several people expressed concern that the properties remain affordable and don’t become a windfall for the 23 families who buy the lots. "Making sure employee housing remains affordable is a priority of council," Acting Mayor Dave Kirk said. He added council doesn’t have specific details on the mechanisms it will use to ensure affordability is maintained in perpetuity, but that was council’s objective. Several residents of Adventures West and Alta Lake Resort supported the project and noted that it would bring finality to property that has been the subject of proposals and speculation for many years. "Some neighbours are interested only in the land adjacent to them, not the whole neighbourhood," said a resident of Crabapple Drive. "I don’t think we should pay attention to nit-picking about policing (making sure the residents are employees), get on with it." Garry Watson, a former alderman and long-time advocate of employee housing, said: "I don’t really think there’s a better location in the valley." Watson said concerns about density were a red herring, as the overall density was less than what is allowed in Whistler Cay. He noted that the 1,800 square foot limit on houses was an initiative of the developers, rather than the municipality.

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