By Alison Taylor
The deal for the Alpine North lands could yield upwards of $60 million profit for First Nations.
That’s based on the average value of a lot in Whistler at $1 million, minus the cost to service it, and the ability to build 75 single family homes.
As part of the historic land agreement, approved Monday night, council has agreed to consider a rezoning application for the Alpine North lands by June 2008.
“We’re going to look at partnering and look at recruiting experienced people in the area to see if we could move it to a point where we can realize some economic development as soon as possible,” said lead negotiator for Lil’wat Nation Lyle Leo.
It is not clear what that rezoning will look like and whether or not it will maximize all the bed units just transferred to the First Nations. It is also not clear if the First Nations will build the site or sell it to a developer.
Leo said the Alpine North site, which is the 32 acres directly above the new Rainbow development, is a priority for them before the 2010 Olympics not only to maximize the opportunities associated with the Games, but also to help offset the costs of the First Nations Cultural Centre in Whistler.
“It’s been five years (negotiating the deal),” said Leo. “I’d hate to have missed the opportunity of 2010… The whole Shared Legacies Agreement was partnering to host successful 2010 Games. So it would be a big boondoggle if we’re not provided real opportunity to benefit with economic development opportunities through the 2010 Games.”
The potential windfall from the Alpine real estate could also help offset the rising construction escalation costs of the $28.4 million Cultural Centre in Whistler.
There is still a funding shortfall for the 30,000 square foot centre and it is slated to open next year.
“We want to put on a good, responsible interpretation for the Whistler community, the visitors and the world that’s going to have its eyes on Whistler in 2010 and we want it sustainable beyond 2010,” said Leo. “It’s going to be very challenging.”
Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed said there are no guarantees that a rezoning would move forward before the Games. Council has only agreed to consider a rezoning.
“We couldn’t promise them approval of the rezoning at Rainbow,” said Melamed.
“Councils cannot be fettered in their decision making in the future.”
He also commented on the fact that rezonings in Whistler take a long time to process.
“A rezoning application in Whistler takes multiple years to realize,” he said.
Even if the rezoning application comes in before June 2008 it could take many months before final approval.
The Rainbow development does not yet have final approval and its bylaws were first presented to council one year ago.