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Commercial concessions move Rainbow forward

Public hearing on subdivision proposal set for May 15

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By Alison Taylor

After a week of negotiations and compromises the proposed Rainbow resident housing project was finally good enough to move forward Monday night.

“It’s not done yet but this is a significant milestone,” said Mayor Ken Melamed as council unanimously approved second reading of bylaws that will bring forward Whistler’s newest subdivision.

Only one week ago council expressed reservations about the proposed size of the commercial area in the new neighbourhood and sent staff back to the negotiating table with the developers.

Since then both sides have made concessions and have agreed to a proposal in which the retail space is reduced from more than 23,500 square feet to 20,500 square feet. The office space has been reduced from 3,000 to 1,000 square feet. That’s a total commercial space reduction of roughly 5,000 square feet.

While that wasn’t as much of a reduction as Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden was hoping to see, she agreed to the deal in the interests of moving the project forward.

The mayor said the unanimous vote couldn’t have happened without the teamwork and the good working relationship among council.

Local business owner Scott Carrell loudly applauded council’s decision at Monday’s meeting.

“I’m happy to see it done,” he said the following day. “We need employee housing.”

Rainbow will be Whistler’s biggest employee housing project to date with at least 220 units of housing in a range of formats, from single-family homes to townhouses and apartments. The housing will be built around a commercial core. A gas station will be located at the entrance to the subdivision, which is located between Alpine Meadows and Emerald Estates.

According to the revised bylaws, presented Monday night, the commercial space will leased specifically for local uses such as a grocery store, florist, video store, postal outlet, coffee shop, beauty salon, dry cleaning and pharmacy, among other things.

This has helped satisfy one of council’s biggest concerns — creating a node of commercial development that could potentially take away from businesses in the village.

With last week’s reduction in the amount of commercial space and by defining the uses specifically to service the local neighbourhoods, the deal became more palatable.

Council recognized the work of staff and Steve Bayly, who brokered the Rainbow deal more than a year ago when he was hired for a time as a housing expeditor to get employee housing projects rolling in the valley.

“Without his efforts it wouldn’t be here tonight,” said Councillor Tim Wake.

With council giving the Rainbow bylaws second reading Monday, the project can now move forward to a public hearing on Monday, May 15, 7 p.m. in council chambers at MY Millennium Place. That’s the time when Whistlerites can speak out in favour or opposition to the project.

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