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Sometime soon the people of Whistler are going to have to discuss the current 52,500 bed unit ceiling on development. Virtually all of those bed units have been allocated. What happens when they are all built? The question comes to mind in light of last week’s public hearing on a bylaw amendment which would eliminate a number of permitted uses on RR1 land and the opposition to the bylaw from the owners of the 25-35 remaining parcels of privately held RR1 land in the valley. One of the fundamental principles behind Whistler’s success, as a community and a resort, is its size. No one wants a sprawling strip development up and down Highway 99. However, as Whistler reaches buildout the pressure for continued growth can have several consequences, including inflating the price of property and increasing the likelihood of new subdivisions outside the municipal boundaries. The Official Community Plan limits development to 52,500 bed units but lists a couple of exceptions for development beyond that ceiling, one of them being affordable housing. The results of the municipal monitoring system, which will be released in the fall, are supposed to indicate where Whistler stands on several fronts. Early indications are that the affordable housing situation has become more critical than ever. That’s hardly surprising given the substantial growth Whistler has seen in the last year-and-a-half, a period when no new affordable housing has been built. (The success or merits of the single family lots on Lorimer Ridge and in Millar’s Pond as affordable housing are open to debate; for this discussion affordable housing refers to apartment or townhouse-type of units.) But the means for a solution would seem to be at hand: Whistler needs more affordable housing and there are some suitable, privately held parcels of land within the municipal boundaries. Permitting affordable housing on some of these parcels would push the bed unit total beyond 52,500, but because it would be affordable housing it would allowed under the OCP. Certainly not all the privately held RR1 land is suitable for housing, and the land owners would have to be convinced they could make enough of a profit from affordable housing to be worth their while. But that’s where some public discussion of the development ceiling comes in. If, after reviewing the results of the monitoring system and debating the size and quality of life in Whistler, Whistlerites decide that the ceiling on development should be maintained, then the options for RR1 property owners will be clear: they may apply for rezoning to build affordable housing, they may apply for rezoning under the "extraordinary circumstances" clause, or they can live with the permitted uses under RR1 zoning. If, on the other hand, Whistlerites decide that at some point in the future they may get rid of the ceiling on development then the prospects for the RR1 parcels of land are wide open again.

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