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Bunbury land deal still uncertain

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Proponent asks for change to $1 million donation after land deal falls through

Alex Bunbury’s deal to sell portions of his 10-acre Creekside property has collapsed after delays to get the land rezoned.

The deal would have seen a $1 million cash donation to the Housing Reserve Fund for the creation of new resident housing in the community. This $1 million equals 12 per cent of the proposed sale price. But the deal hinged on the land being rezoned by the end of October.

"It was a done deal, everything was in place," Bunbury said Monday after a public hearing on a bylaw to rezone his property.

"The deal fell through because it wasn’t zoned."

He said this deal had been on the table since April.

Now with the collapsed contract and the uncertainty of the real estate market, Bunbury has asked for a change in his rezoning application.

The new application, which was presented by planner Sharon Jensen on Monday, states that Bunbury is prepared to donate 12 per cent of the property purchase price when he gets a sale.

Jensen added that the change in the application is really a safety factor in case the sale price drops.

After the meeting Bunbury said the application is not finalized and they are still in negotiations with the municipality as to what the deal may or may not be.

"We cannot commit until we have a sale," he said.

Councillor Kristi Wells, who was acting as mayor at the hearing, said that council would not be voting on the application on Monday. Generally council does not vote on applications if new information comes up at the public hearing.

Mayor Hugh O’Reilly had earlier excused himself from the proceedings because he is in conflict with one of the zoning bylaw changes on the land, which involves residential tourist accommodation.

Bunbury, a long-time Whistler property owner, approached the municipality with a purchase proposal that called for the development of four large homes on the 10-acre property.

One of those lots would be connected to the Kadenwood development and the other three lots would be lower on the property, close to Bear Creek.

Bunbury has the bed units for three of the four homes.

In order to get his land rezoned for the development, Bunbury offered a number of things to sweeten the deal.

In addition to the $1-million donation to the Housing Reserve Fund, he offered a cash donation of $300,000 to a local non-profit community organization, half of the 10-acre property would be dedicated for conservation and he would build a nature hiking trail to link various developments in the area.

He is also proposing to build two, or possibly three, 1,500 square-foot cottages that would be for employee use.

He says his proposal is very generous.

The sale of the land was based on three zoning changes.

The three lots on the lower property would be zoned for single family resident housing. The portion of land in the middle, for conservation, would be zoned for Leisure Park, and the lot next to Kadenwood would be zoned for residential tourist accommodation.

The sale collapsed after delays to get these zoning changes through council.

Now the donation to the Housing Reserve Fund will hinge on a new land sale.

"They really have lost out on a big donation," said Bunbury.

"We don’t know what we’ll be able to sell the place for. It all depends on the market now."

Speaking of the long application process, Bunbury said he is frustrated and tired.

"It’s been a really stressful time for our family," he said.

"There has to be a better process for people that are like ourselves, or anything dealing with your land and your life. You don’t get a say in it."

Bunbury added that he would like to stay on the land where he has been living for the past 30 years but he just can’t afford to do so any longer.

For more than 25 years Bunbury’s land, which still has the three original ski cabins, has been legally non-conforming.

Bunbury bought the land from the province in 1972 after he met all the necessary requirements to purchase it, namely building the three cabins and then installing independent water, power and sewage systems.

But in 1976 the municipality downzoned the lands to RR1 zoning and then said that the RR1 zone only allowed for one home on the 10-acre property.

At Monday’s public hearing his daughter-in-law, Vicky Bunbury, spoke about how the family used to park in Creekside on the winter weekends and trudge up the mountain in hip-deep snow laden with their food for the weekend.

"It is time to put this rezoning to rest," she said.

Also at the pubic hearing, Bruce Watt told council that as a young liftie years ago Bunbury offered him a place to stay in one of his cabins for $50 a month. He ended up staying there for four years.

"They are the true pioneers, in my mind, in this community," said Watt.

Former school board trustee Alix Nicoll also spoke in favour of the development.

"We elected a new council because we’re looking for new housing," she said.

There were concerns raised at the hearing that the ski out to Bear Creek Estates and the Kadenwood development would be interrupted with the land sale and subsequent rezoning. But Bunbury said that he has no control over the ski out.

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