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Land bank legacy costs detailed

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It will cost over $50 million to develop the Callaghan Valley or Brandywine if either one is chosen as the site of the community land bank.

The costs and characteristics of the land bank site options, which also include the Upper and Lower Cheakamus, were outlined Wednesday night by the municipality at an open house.

The municipality is already in discussions with the provincial government about receiving a land bank.

If Whistler is chosen to host part of the 2010 Games some of the development costs of the land bank would be covered by the Winter Games organizing committee.

But whether or not the Games come to town the community land bank will become a reality.

While the price tag to develop the sites south of Whistler may seem high the trade-off is the possibility of gaining over 8,000 bed units in the development, because the Callaghan and Brandywine areas are large and relatively flat.

To develop the Upper Cheakamus would cost approximately $27, 227,696. That would include a water treatment plant, sewer connections, pressure reducing valve stations, a bridge over Alpha Lake Creek, and the development of 10 housing areas or "pods" within the 108.96 acre site.

This site could yield 2,940 bed units.

The 194.73 acre Lower Cheakamus would cost $14,894,976 to develop and yield 3,710 bed units. The price tag would pay for water treatment, a bridge over the Cheakamus River and the development of 10 pods for housing.

One of the reasons the Callaghan and Brandywine areas are more expensive to develop is the greater amount of infrastructure needed to support new communities there.

Each one would need water treatment plants, sanitation treatment plants, sanitation connections, crossings over creeks, a fire hall and trucks ($2,600,000), highway intersections, as well as the development of the housing areas.

Brandywine would yield 8,380 bed units and the Callaghan 8,273.

Under the community "land bank" legacy the government would promise crown land to the municipality for use in the future. The land bank would be the site of the athletes village for 2,500 if the 2010 Games came to Whistler. The athletes village facility would be converted to employee housing following the event.

The land would be limited to resident housing and other related social uses, such as day cares and fire-halls when developed.

It could not be used for commercial development unless the government was compensated.

The final choice must take into consideration several criteria including proximity to existing developed areas, the environment, how much work has to be done to prepare the site, and how much improvement must be done to facilitate highway access, water supply and other infrastructure needs.

"It’s interesting, they all have their merits," said Mike Purcell, general manager of the RMOW’s planning and development department.

"They each have their own strengths and weaknesses. At this point there isn’t any one in particular that is standing out."

The Upper Cheakamus, clear cut in the 1980s, needs a high level of site preparation because it has so many rocky knolls and elevations between 20 and 40 degrees. The topography also means there are large gaps between "pods," resulting in inefficient cost in delivery and maintenance of services.

It also contains wetlands and creeks and one stand of old-growth forest and a stand of mature forest (141-250 years old).

The Lower Cheakamus would need moderate site preparation. It was extensively logged in the 1950s and contains the landfill and an active gravel pit. It also has a creek and a wetland and a stand of old growth on the fringe.

The housing pods can all be clustered together so delivery and maintenance of services would be cost effective. It is also near Function Junction.

And kids could even walk to the new Spring Creek Elementary school due to open in the fall of 2003.

The 306.65 acre Callaghan site is further away from Whistler and that increases the cost of providing services like police and fire. But the topography of the land makes it cost efficient for development of housing.

It contains a number of wetlands and creeks and is adjacent to a stand of old growth.

Brandywine has been logged since the 1970s. The 310.6 acre site needs only moderate site preparation but may need a berm for flood protection along Brandywine Creek.

Because of its distance from Whistler the cost of providing some services like fire and police will be high but delivery of other services like water will be cost effective because of the clustered nature of the community.

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