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Sometimes the most obvious oversights are the hardest to recognize. I believe this is the case in the Whistler International Campus proposal coming before council.
There are two questions before council: 1) Does Whistler want a facility such as Whistler International Campus complete with challenges and opportunities? 2) Does Whistler wish to change the zoning on the Millar Creek lands to allow higher density than allowed by current zoning?
To my mind, the unwavering position of the applicant not to address these two questions independent of one another and to keep those two discussions welded together has doomed the project.
Texas Creek Ranch
Upzoning should be denied
On Dec. 3 the proponents of the Whistler International Campus will bring forward their request to mayor and council for upzoning the Zen Lands — better known as the Millar Creek Wetlands — for the seventh time.
Said then-Pique reporter Andrew Mitchell July 8, 2011:"It was noted last year by Mayor Ken Melamed that the Zen family has brought forward six different development applications for the land since the 1990s, and that the developers have rejected offers for land swaps that would have preserved the forest and wetland complex. 'We've always been clear that we're going to develop the land,' said Doug Player, (spokesman for the proponents' upzoning application). 'We're just hoping that it will be something more economically beneficial to the community.'"
...And certainly something far more economically beneficial to the proponents. Squamish's Quest University 2013 tuition rates for a Canadian student — $40,735. Upzoning purchased land with fixed development rights is a dream for any would-be developer, despite the known limitations that came with their decision to purchase that property.
Previous mayor, councillors, and RMOW staff have been open to the opportunity of a post secondary facility in Whistler. Despite some possible options in the past for brown-field land swaps, the proponents are only willing to develop an intact temperate rainforest adjacent to a sensitive wetland complex for a massive 1,400 student facility and all of the infrastructure required to house/feed/educate/support/staff them.
These intricate ecosystems only function when the mammals, amphibians, reptiles etc. have both the required healthy uplands and a wetland complex below. Bears hibernate/forage there, and it is zoned PAN1 through the RMOW's Protected Areas Network analysis. PAN1 is the rating for the most sensitive lands, and is meant to designate lands that should not be developed.
Development of an institution of higher learning is not a bad idea per se. Yet upzoning the Millar Creek Wetlands is a bad idea — as it always has been.
We have finite wetlands left in Whistler and they are stressed already by uphill development that surrounds them. The proponent's rejection of trading development rights for brown zones that are already disturbed is a red flag.