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Freestyle proposal draws a crowd The most contentious public hearing since the Green Lakes Golf Course did not produce a decision on the freestyle/gymnastics proposal, but it showed there is considerable confusion and opposition to developments considered under the "extraordinary circumstances" clause. Nearly 200 people turned out Monday night to express their views on the Norwood Group's two-part proposal. Norwood has offered to build a $750,000 training centre for the national freestyle team on Blackcomb in exchange for the right to develop 22 single family lots in the Adventures West area. Although the 132 bed units the project would generate take the committed bed unit total beyond the development ceiling stated in the Official Community Plan, they are being considered under the extraordinary circumstances clause. The clause allows for developments which have the potential to provide clear and substantial benefits to the community and the resort. The benefits, as listed in a staff memo, are that the Canadian freestyle team would call Whistler home for at least five years, bringing the community additional exposure. As well, the gymnasium facility could be used by the Whistler Gymnastics Club. The memo also states the Adventures West development would include a partial Valley Trail connection and preservation of a wetlands area adjacent to the River of Golden Dreams. No one at Monday's public hearing in the conference centre was against the freestyle facility, but there was considerable opposition to the 22 lots, which many felt would damage the wetlands area, and to the deal itself. "It's a bribe for bed units," Ron Stanley said. "If we say yes to this we're opening the door to every developer in North America, saying bed units cost $800,000." Stanley, who lives above two of the proposed new lots, said council was "pitting community residents against freestylers, developers and real estate agents." Developer Eric Martin, who did not oppose the project, said there is confusion surrounding the process for development rights. "It's not clear. What would we get if we built you a library?" he asked. Several speakers expressed concern about the impact the development would have on the wetlands, and about the amount of wetland that has already been lost in the valley. No impact assessment of the site was done but a preliminary environmental review identified the wetland areas and recommended preservation as well as a buffer zone between the wetlands and housing sites. The lots range from 1/2 acre to 1 1/2 acres in size. The project was supported by several speakers, including residents of the Alta Lake Resort and Adventures West complexes who have had several meetings with Norwood President Peter Foreman. Bill Anderson of the Alta Lake Resort strata council said the proposal has more interface with Alta Lake Resort than with any other area, and the strata council supports the project. Peter Judge, head coach of the Canadian freestyle team and a Whistler resident, said he has been impressed by council's management of issues over the years. He said Whistler was not just the number one ski area but the number one place to live, because of responsible, committed plans for development. At the end of a three-hour public hearing council deferred any decision on the freestyle proposal to its next meeting.

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