By Alison Taylor
Councillor Eckhard Zeidler wants council to reaffirm its commitment to limit development in the valley and stick to its bed cap.
“This community has said over and over and over again that we want to limit growth once this thing is finished and I take that really seriously,” he said.
He plans to bring a motion forward to council in the coming months to let everyone know where it stands on future development proposals.
“Why am I doing it? Because I feel that this council is committed to the end of growth of market housing in Whistler and I think it would be good to communicate that… It would be good to let people know where we stand.”
Zeidler spoke of his plans at the recent Dialogue Café Tuesday night when asked how close Whistler was to build out of the development cap based on its unique tool to measure development — bed units.
The resort is very close to its planned build out.
The development cap has a potential upper limit of 62,150 bed units; that includes employee housing, specifically the 6,650 units committed through the recent sustainability plan process as well as the athletes’ village and the Rainbow development.
The market component of the cap is almost at its end. Three years ago there was roughly only 10 per cent left.
Council, as per its bed unit policy, can increase the cap if a market development meets four conditions, namely that it provides a clear benefit to the community.
It has exercised that right twice, most recently with the Rainbow development, which was granted 208 bed units in return for the promise of employee housing.
The only other time this policy has been used was in 1999 when council granted 476 bed units to Intrawest for what became the Four Seasons development, in exchange for the protection of the Emerald Forest in perpetuity.
Demands to increase the cap in exchange for amenities are not going to abate, particularly after Whistler makes the world stage in 2010, said Zeidler.
He said he gets regular phone calls from developers with ideas that require additional bed units, be it wellness centre proposals or universities.
He wants this council to be clear on its policy.
“The only currency that council has that we can spend are bed units,” said Zeidler. “And I for one am not into starting the presses and making more.”
Zeidler said he does not want to tie the hands of future councils or his colleagues. He just wants council to take a clear position.
Long outstanding caches of bed units are quickly getting snapped up.
The 228 units once owned by the Crown and not tied to any site have now been moved into the hands of First Nations for development. Council has also transferred the left over bed units from the Shoestring redevelopment and from the proposed tennis club redevelopment to First Nations. In total Squamish and Lil’wat Nations now have 452 bed units, or the development potential for 75 detached homes. (Each single-family home requires six bed units.)
Intrawest also had these so-called “residual” bed units. Council is currently debating how many units are left. The most recent report to council, which was pulled from the public agenda at the last meeting, details a count of 146 bed units.
Less than 100 units remain in the municipality’s hands from the creation of municipal park and open spaces.
There are also undeveloped bed units, which are tied to specific sites. For example, the tennis court lands now owned by The Holborn Group have several hundred bed units on site still to be developed.