The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is making more progress on the employee-housing file.
In a report climbing well past the 600-page mark presented at the Sept. 18 council meeting, municipal staff outlined nine employee-housing proposals from private developers, recommending that council approve further review and processing of four.
The proposals were weighted against guidelines established by council in December, evaluating them based on affordability, neighbourhood context, servicing and traffic, site planning and building design.
In the end, council opted to support five, with the inclusion of a 99-apartment and 48-dorm bed proposal in Rainbow, under the condition that the applicants get confirmation from the provincial ministry of highways (within 120 days) that it will allow access to the site at 8975 Highway 99.
And with that, council is in the early stages of rezoning lands for almost 700 new bed units—well beyond the target of 500 set by the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing.
But there's still a long way to go, and the bulk of the work will be undertaken by Whistler's next council post-Oct. 20.
"Now we start the process," Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said after the meeting. "We may well require more detailed drawings and so on from the applicants, then we go through the public information meetings, we have bylaws drafted, it goes through first and second reading, public hearings... but we're still seeking more information, more detail from the applicants."
Residents opposed to any of the proposed rezonings—of which there have been no shortage towards the projects already made public—will have ample opportunity to voice their concerns before any hard decisions get made.
The approved proposals: 2077 Garibaldi Way (48 apartments, 144 bed units), 7104 Nancy Greene Drive (47 apartments, 122 bed units), 1315 Cloudburst Drive (56 apartments, about 78 bed units), 2028 Rob Boyd Way (two shared apartments or one dormitory, eight bed units), and 8975 Highway 99, "Rainbow Ridge" (99 apartments and 48 dorm beds, 339 bed units).
Though both 2077 Garibaldi Way (in Nordic) and 7104 Nancy Greene Drive (in White Gold) have been public for some time, both have been significantly downsized from their original proposals.
On Garibaldi Way, the proponent is now seeking 48 apartments (three-stories with underground parking instead of four) instead of 74, and 144 bed units instead of 222.
The project has garnered opposition from Nordic residents, who believe it will completely change the character of a quiet cul-de-sac and have a negative impact on traffic trying to leave Nordic.
Traffic was also a concern for council.
"I have big reservations about the Garibaldi project. The egress getting in and out of Nordic is already problematic ... that section of road has proven very dangerous," said Councillor Jen Ford, adding that it's also one of the big reasons why transit is challenged moving south of the Village.
"If (the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure) can come up with something creative that would make getting in and out of Nordic (easier) ... it would help me like this project a little bit more.
"The rental rates that we saw are extraordinary, and it doesn't meet the affordability, from my perspective, so I don't like that project."
The RMOW has been advised not to present the actual rental rates contained in the proposals, instead presenting the rates as "percentages less than market"—all of the proposals being considered are said to be 20-to-40-per cent below market rates.
Like Garibaldi Way, the Nancy Greene Drive proposal is downsized from what was first presented: 47 apartments in four stories with underground parking (down from 65 apartments in five stories) and 122 bed units (down from 184).
"I think it's the three rules of real estate: location, location, location," said Coun. Cathy Jewett, of its proximity to the village, the Valley Trail and more.
Ford agreed, but said she liked the proposal in its original form, even with less parking.
"This is going to target a very, very big demographic in our community, the one-year, two-year seasonal staff that are looking for a safe place to live, and statistically, people don't want to own vehicles if they don't have to," Ford said. "I really would like to see this project move forward with less parking, and allow them to bring back in those 18 units that have been lost from the original proposal."
Coun. John Grills pointed out there could be a revenue source in keeping the project as is, as the lot it's proposed for is currently occupied by Nesters staff parking.
"If it then becomes a revenue source downstairs then there's a formula for a portion of that to go back into the operation of the building. Then it potentially somehow can assist the rents for the tenants in there," Grills said. "But we've tried to reduce parking on other projects and it's come back to bite us, so I would be cautious at this point to do that."
Meanwhile, Whistlerites will get their next update on work underway on Cheakamus Crossing Phase 2 at an open house on Oct. 1 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Westin. Details will be posted to www.whistler.ca next week.
It's impossible to ignore the overwhelming opposition to Garibaldi Way, and there's no guarantee any of the projects make it through the rezoning process, said Coun. Jack Crompton, but the proponents are aware of the challenges they face.
"I want to give each of them every opportunity to see the rezoning process, and to improve them as part of that, and to get them to the point where there are benefits to the developer and to the community," he said. "That said, in my view, the next phase of Cheakamus Crossing is the cornerstone of our housing strategy."