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Council unanimous again in vetoing of Rainbow rezoning

Developer encouraged to bring new plans to the hall



It may have been one of its most difficult decisions to date but council remained united in its opposition to increasing the commercial core at Rainbow.

The unanimous vote, without absent Councillor André Janyk, passed at Tuesday's council meeting, marking four months of successive meetings to date without one dissenting vote — at least in public.

Despite shooting down the plans for development, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden had a direct message to developer Sam Brovender, who was sitting with supporters in the audience.

Revise your plans, she told him. Scale them back and let's get this thing back in the hall.

"I want to see this project finished for the sake of the neighbourhood," she said.

Brovender did not return the Pique's calls by deadline Wednesday.

Rainbow's rezoning application has been in the works for about 18 months, leaving a gaping hole in the centre of the new northern neighbourhood. The mayor said she would be having an internal discussion in the hall about why the process took so long.

But the mayor, along with the rest of the council team, were unwilling to have the project finished at the developer's proposed size: increasing the commercial space from 21,500 square feet to more than 28,600 sq.ft. and increasing the residential space from 46,000 sq.ft. to almost 54,000 sq.ft. Combined it would be a total area increase of almost 15,000 sq.ft.

"This is a very significant project," said Councillor Jayson Faulkner. "The implications of that are not insignificant to the community."

At the heart of the issue for the council team was the sheer size of the four-storey building and the fact that it encroached on the prescribed setbacks on the site.

"It doesn't fit, in my view, if you have to push the setbacks to the front of the lot," said Councillor Jack Crompton.

Councillors also expressed concerns about the lack of parking.

As well, Faulkner drew attention to the challenges facing the commercial sector in Whistler at the moment.

Earlier in the day, staff briefed council at the Committee of the Whole meeting on the Rollo Report, which details Whistler's commercial and industrial opportunities, supply and positioning.

Among other things, council learned there is a five per cent commercial vacancy rate in the village.

"(That's) quite high compared to historical rates," said Mike Kirkegaard, manager of resort planning. In the past the village vacancy rates have been at one per cent.

Creekside continues to struggle and Function Junction/Cheakamus Crossing has a 20 per cent vacancy rate.

The health and vitality of the village, said Kirkegaard, is considered "fair."

In shooting down the Rainbow rezoning, council followed a staff recommendation that did not support the increased size.

Rainbow has also asked to double the size of its gas station on Lot 1 at the entrance to the neighbourhood. That rezoning request came before the last council. It was initially defeated in a 5 to 2 vote then reconsidered.

The mayor also reiterated that although she was voting against the rezoning development, she vows that Whistler is open for business. She wants to see the jobs that go along with construction; just not this particular plan.

It is not clear what the developers' next steps will be.

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