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Future of Callaghan uncertain as rezoning moves forward

Regional district holds public hearing for Whistler Nordic Centre

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While much is still unknown about the future of the Callaghan Valley, the rezoning bylaws hold a promise of what's to come.

The bylaws, which pertain to 262 hectares in the Callaghan for the Whistler Nordic Centre, will permit a cross-country stadium and trails, a shooting range for biathlon, ski jumps and a ski jump lift operation – all of which are needed to host the 2010 Olympics.

The bylaws also allow for other recreational facilities, such as a tubing park and lift, an outdoor skating rink, hut-to-hut ski touring, hiking facilities, a 100-room lodge and a 100-space RV and campsite. These amenities would all go within the so-called "competition footprint."

But they will not go ahead until a plan for the whole valley has been complete.

In order to meet the tight timeframe for the Olympics, the regional district is moving ahead in the rezoning process for the Olympic venue in the absence of that plan.

On Monday the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District will hold a public hearing on the proposed bylaws for the Whistler Nordic Centre.

"The list of uses in the (Nordic Centre) zone are what VANOC (the Vancouver Organizing Committee) anticipates emerging based on their original business plan," explained Susan Stratis, planning consultant with the SLRD. "They haven't finished their business plan. They're still in the process of refining it, partly in discussions with First Nations.

"So right now we're including a list of uses that we think could emerge. They may not all develop."

For Brad Sills, a longstanding commercial operator in the valley, the rezoning in light of all those unknowns, is cause for concern.

Sills operates Callaghan Country, a cross-country skiing operation which crosses paths with the competition footprint land.

"At this point the Games venue is displacing three of the four (commercial operators) considerably," said Sills. "Three of the four operators will have significant changes to their operations and do not have the guarantees that replacement opportunity will be sufficient.

"I think the issue of long-term tenures and commercial interests and people who backed the bid right from the start, their interests are being usurped at this time. Those questions have to be answered before the rezoning is passed."

But it's not only the interests of the commercial tenure holders he's worried about. There are broader uncertainties he said.

For example, VANOC, the developer, has not finalized the design, location and operation of the water and sewer infrastructure. This has Sills worried about the amount of leniency that's being granted for this developer.

"I think generally speaking, Whistler would never allow as much room for interpretation on such a major project as this for anyone other than VANOC," he said.

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