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housing open house

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Even if none of the 10 housing proposals displayed at a public forum last Saturday are built this year there should still be an additional 600 employee bed units built by next winter. That housing includes dormitory buildings being built by both Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain, some townhouses being built by Blackcomb near Base II, and 42 townhouses on the Spruce Grove property that Greenside Properties is committed to building this summer. As well, Greenside’s David Ehrhardt hinted this week the single family lots at Spruce Grove may be made "more available" to Whistler residents. "We’re trying to create more opportunities for locals to get into it," he said. The Greenside development was briefly discussed by council during an in camera session Monday. Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly would say only that council is "trying to achieve what our initial objectives were," and that "more affordable housing is part of it." "We didn’t have any time to deal with the issues on Monday," O’Reilly added. Greenside’s development of the Spruce Grove project is on hold pending fourth reading of zoning bylaws by the new council. The previous council gave the project first three readings. Greenside was erecting two factory-built display homes on the site but work was halted pending adoption of the zoning bylaws. The 42 townhouses that Greenside is to build on a break-even basis will be ground oriented and will be one-bedroom, two-bedroom and two-bedroom with den units. Meanwhile, the turnout for Saturday’s open house on the 10 affordable housing proposals the municipality is considering was decent, but not overwhelming. Interested parties rotated through a room at the Myrtle Philip School looking at plans and sketches of the various projects during the three-hour open house. "I don’t think we got as much feedback on the criteria as we’d hoped for, but the individual projects got a lot of scrutiny," O’Reilly said. The municipal Planning department established an evaluation matrix for the 10 projects that includes 13 criteria. Some criteria, such as neighbourhood compatibility, carry more weight than others, such as visibility from the highway. The matrix and feedback from people at Saturday’s open house will be used by the Planning staff to bring forward a short list of projects to council for further evaluation. That short list may come forward as early as Monday (Feb. 10) at a special council meeting. Some of the feedback on the evaluation matrix had to do with things the matrix left out, such as affordability and liveability. Those issues are supposed to be evaluated in the second stage, once a project has been shortlisted. The 10 projects are essentially competing for 1,700 bed units the municipality has allocated for affordable housing projects. The projects being considered range in size from three bed units to 1,152 bed units. The 10 projects total more than 3,300 bed units. However, the 1,700 bed unit figure was based on the employee housing surcharge, which was levied against new developments for 40 per cent of the employees each project created. A consultant is reviewing the formula and evaluating whether it should be greater than 40 per cent. In addition to the 10 projects being reviewed, the Whistler Valley Housing Society has asked for the $6 million housing fund to create affordable rental housing. Sites for such a project or projects have yet to be identified.

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