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Developer dreams of employee housing in Function

Project cannot move forward without council's approval



A Function Junction developer is at the drawing board working on plans for an employee housing project in Whistler's industrial park.

Don Wensley, of Millar Creek Developments Ltd., said there is still a lot of work to do before the 30-unit building can move forward. And ultimately council must approve the rezoning for the project. But the employee housing units could be up for sale by the end of this year.

"We are working with the municipality and the Whistler Housing Authority in the hope of building 30 employee units on this site at 1410 Alpha Lake Road," said Wensley, a colourful former real estate agent who has lived and worked in Whistler for more than 20 years.

The housing site is nestled at the north end of Function Junction, next to Wensley's most recent commercial development project.

The plans to date call for a free standing building with employee housing units in the range of 1,000 square feet each. They would be one-bedroom suites with dens.

The four-storey building will have covered parking and an elevator service.

Wensley's plans may come as a surprise because he has adamantly opposed employee housing plans in Function in the past. He was very vocal in his opposition to a proposed mixed use industrial/commercial/residential building next to the concrete plant as well as the suggestion he include housing in the expansion of his Millar Creek/Lordco building.

But this new project is different, he said, because it is a freestanding structure, with no commercial or industrial activities in the building.

"Employee housing does not fit with industry," maintained Wensley. "In other words, if you have your suite on the second floor and someone fires up their tractor or skidoo or chainsaw, and you happen to work at a nightclub until 2 in the morning, you're a little pissed off at 7 o'clock if you can't sleep.

"So there is an incredible difference in having a freestanding building that's totally residential compared to a mixed use building where you've got industry on the main floor and residential tenants upstairs."

Tim Wake, general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority, said he is looking forward to council considering this project.

"We need to be looking at residential opportunities in Function Junction," he said.

When asked if this project would be in a good location for employee housing, Wensley replied: "Just wait 'til you see it."

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