Whistler’s new transit maintenance facility could be placed on B.C. Hydro lands, near the municipal works yard along Highway 99, after B.C. Transit’s current lease in Function Junction expires in 2013.
The B.C. Hydro lands fall outside of Resort Municipality of Whistler zoning laws, making it possible for B.C. Transit to locate the transit hub there without rezoning from the municipality.
However the area has also been identified as a high value wetland, with a rich ecosystem of heavy tree canopy, mosquitoes, bears and other wildlife. Such an ecosystem is deemed, under municipal law, unsuitable for development.
To determine the feasibility of putting the transit site on the B.C. Hydro land, crews working for B.C. Transit began conducting an environmental review of the site on Monday and Tuesday of this week.
“Basically we were doing Phase I environmental assessments yesterday and late Monday afternoon,” said BC Transit representative Chris Lythgo.
“This is to do preliminary assessments of the site.”
Lythgo added that no construction is yet underway and no final decisions have been made which site to use for the transit facility.
“This is one of the sites we are looking at, so it is just due diligence work we are doing at this point.”
The other piece of property being considered by B.C. Transit is being called the Mons Industrial Park. The privately-owned Mons land would require rezoning, since it is currently zoned for a single family estate, but a bylaw to allow light industrial uses on the site received first and second reading from council last week.
Councillor Bob Lorriman said even though the B.C. Hydro land falls outside municipal zoning, B.C. Transit and B.C. Hydro have both said they will consult with the municipality before any final plans are made.
“My understanding is that they will consult with council before they do anything,” said Lorriman.
Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden also said her understanding is that B.C. Transit is just doing their due diligence to assess the B.C. Hydro site and no final decisions have been made.
B.C. Transit has been looking for a new location for its bus maintenance facility since September 2007, after it was announced that the government organization would be receiving 20 state of the art hydrogen fuel cell buses for use in Whistler in 2009, as well as a hydrogen fuelling station.
The current bus facility in Function Junction is not large enough to accommodate the new hydrogen buses. The municipality is also concerned with the dead-head costs and extra emissions incurred with a transit facility that is not centrally located in Whistler.
Steve Bayly, co-owner of the Mons site being considered for the transit facility, said he is very concerned with the environmental impacts the facility could have on the B.C. Hydro lands.
“I am shocked and appalled that they would even consider putting it on the wetlands,” said Bayly. “It shows no respect for our community values.”
Bayly and partner Nigel Woods also own the land were the current transit facility in Function Junction is located.