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Bunbury proposal sparks debate on policy



The Whistler Housing Authority will receive $1 million to help replenish its building fund, and a local non-profit community organization will get $300,000, under a rezoning proposal by Alex Bunbury.

As well, Bunbury is proposing to dedicate half of his nearly-10-acre property for conservation, construct a nature hiking trail and build two 1,500 square foot employee restricted cottages on the property.

In return for the community benefits Bunbury is asking that his property, located above Bear Creek, be rezoned for four houses, two at 4,000 square feet and two of 5,000 square feet. Three houses exist on the property.

The package of community benefits was negotiated over the last year, as the proposal went back and forth between municipal staff and Bunbury.

Councillor Nick Davies called the proposal "extremely generous" and said the family, long-time residents of the valley, can be extremely proud.

However Councillor Ken Melamed said he could not support more large homes and questioned the process the municipality is following.

"It’s not easy and I take no pleasure in opposing this application from a family I’ve known for 25 years," Melamed said. "But it would be inconsistent for me to support this.

"We have enough big homes in Whistler. We’ve been down that road. We tried that experiment," Melamed continued.

He also said he was concerned Whistler is beginning to look like it’s for sale.

"I think there is a distinction between amenities that fall out of a development, like extensions of the Valley Trail, and bonus densities," he said.

"Is this sustainable? Is this how we are going to support the housing authority?

"We don’t have a policy. We do this ad hoc. We need some clear definitions for this."

Davies countered that it was "not appropriate to formulate a policy (on community benefits) because we fetter our discretion."

Davies questioned how a policy could be put together that would allow for some of the solutions council and staff have arrived at in previous cases where developers have offered community amenities or money for amenities.

Melamed replied that if the municipality should act more like a business, as is suggested under the Whistler 2002 — Charting a Course for the Future document, "then we would have pro forma done to determine the dollar value (of the proposal) rather than pull a number out of a hat.

"I maintain it’s an ad hoc approach," Melamed said.

Acting mayor Ted Milner, filling in for Mayor Hugh O’Reilly who excused himself due to a conflict of interest, said he didn’t always agree with Melamed "but he’s making a good point.

"This really came as an application to conform with zoning. This thing has morphed into something bigger. Once we get beyond the three regularized homes this is a business deal.

"I think we should be looking at a policy."

However council voted to endorse a continuing review of the Bunbury proposal. It will go to a public information meeting prior to coming back to council for first and second reading.

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