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By Bob Barnett There will be a new mansion on the hill — 29 of them, in fact. After debating the merits and impacts of allowing another exclusive subdivision, council Monday approved in principle BCR Properties’ proposal to rezone 534 acres on the west side of Alta Lake. The proposal, which has yet to come to council as a rezoning application, is to create 29 five-acre lots permitting homes up to 10,000 square feet. The rest of the land — more than 300 acres — would be transferred to the municipality, although rights of way for a future highway bypass are set aside within that land. While some councillors had trouble with the initial proposal presented Monday, the alternative to rezoning is to allow the entire 534 acres — which extend up the side of Sproatt Mountain — to be sold off as 24 20-acre parcels and five smaller lots. Subdivision into 20 acre lots took place in March. "I’m in favour of rezoning, I’m just not in favour of this first rezoning proposal," said Councillor Ken Melamed. "I think this (proposal) is the most profitable (to the developer) alternative," Melamed continued. "I think we can perhaps get more dedicated land, we need a mix of home sizes. The choice isn’t this or subdivision, this is a first brush." Rezoning will allow BCR Properties, or another developer which has made a subject-to offer to the Crown corporation for the land, to concentrate the 29 lots through the middle of the parcel, preserving most of the property above BC Hydro’s highest powerline. However, the concept of a subdivision with estate lots and houses up to 10,000 square feet didn’t sit well with some councillors, even though there is a market for such properties. "We already have enough disparity between employee working folk and the up-on-the-hill folk," Melamed said. "My vision of Whistler is not a bunch of wealthy people and a bunch of people living in suites," said Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. "If we approve this we’re going down that path. "We’ve seen those subdivisions (in American resorts) — they’ve got no soul." Mayor Hugh O’Reilly responded that there were some good arguments against such a subdivision if the issue was strictly one of rezoning, but with BCR Properties prepared to sell the land in 20-acre parcels that is not the case. O’Reilly added that there may be tax benefits to the municipality from such high-end homes. "These are also the type of people we’re looking for when we need financial backing for a foundation," O’Reilly noted. Melamed asked that a cost-benefit analysis be done with regard to taxes and infrastructure, comparing this type of high-end property with a regular-sized single family property. Councillors generally agreed that the subdivision should include a mix of house sizes, including several less than 10,000 square feet. BCR Properties has requested that auxiliary residential units be permitted within a separate building or as part of a free-standing garage on each of the rezoned lots. That request, plus the size of the houses being considered, prompted Councillor Kristi Wells to ask that staff consider counting each property as more than six bed units. (To date, all single family houses have been counted as six bed units, regardless of their size.) Staff is also looking into the possibility of transferring "excess" bed units the Crown has on a piece of property near Nesters Hill to the BCR Properties site. The Crown has sold most of its bed units to the neighbouring Nesters Hill project but some remain on a property the municipality doesn’t want to see developed.

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