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Council recognizes more bed units for Intrawest

Caveat to development rights deal is to insist on help at the athletes’ village

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By Alison Taylor

Council increased Intrawest’s development rights Tuesday but not without asking the company for help in building employee housing at the athletes’ village.

Municipal staff asked council to recognize 82 additional bed units, the tool it uses to measure development, for Intrawest. That brings the company’s total bed unit tally to 146 bed units, or enough to build 36 townhouses.

But Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden wasn’t willing to part with the bed units without first asking for a compromise.

She insisted those extra 82 bed units, part of a 1999 deal that allowed the municipality to protect the Emerald Forest and Intrawest to build the Four Seasons, were connected to the Four Seasons site, and therefore not “floating” or allowed to move to another site.

“That’s the representation we made to the community at the time,” said the councillor who was part of the 1999 council.

She added the subsequent council did not make a decision on the future of those bed units in a council resolution, although Intrawest understood from both council and staff that the bed units would be taken off the site and allowed to “float.”

The confusion illustrates why assigning bed units has come to be known as a “dark art” within the hall.

“I’m beginning to like it more and more,” joked Mayor Ken Melamed who said bed units seem to reappear when council least expects it, “because it’s so entertaining.”

Wilhelm-Morden suggested a compromise. If council agrees to the floating bed units, Intrawest should participate in building employee housing at the athletes’ village and resolve its outstanding employee housing project at Cedar Glen in Spring Creek.

“My amendment is a suggestion at a compromise,” she said.

But other members of council felt the amendment further complicated an already complex arrangement.

Councillor Bob Lorriman pointed out that council will have control and could ask for amenities at the time the Base II rezoning comes before council.

Despite arguments against Wilhelm-Morden’s amendment from Councillor Lorriman, Tim Wake and Gord McKeever, it passed in a 4 to 3 vote.

Mayor Ken Melamed, the only other member of council who was in office during the history of the Four Seasons bed unit debate, said when he voted to approve the transfer of bed units they were to go on a dense site and not “float”.

He said it was reasonable to put conditions on the transfer of the bed units off site.

Council has been negotiating with several outside parties to help build housing at the athletes’ village. The Whistler Housing Authority is looking into building a rental unit at the site and Hostelling International is also part of discussions.

By bringing in other parties, the municipality is reducing its own risk in the $130 million project.

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