Selling the Farm The Mountain Development Corporation, a local company set up to develop Whistler’s first employee housing subdivision at Tapley’s Farm, is in the process of selling its remaining land holdings to Decigon Corp. for a large-lot subdivision adjacent to Tapley’s Farm. Representatives from Mountain Development Corporation, Decigon and concerned Tapley’s residents were in B.C. Supreme Court Nov. 21 to remove a number of restrictive covenants on the MDC land so Decigon could exercise its option to buy the approximately 24 hectares of RR1 property for $1.225 million. In turn, Decigon and its subsidiary Mega Funding Corp., plan on subdividing their entire holdings — the 24 hectares plus part of the Emerald Forest — into 20 acre lots and have plans for single family homes on the lots. In a written judgement released last Friday, Supreme Court Justice Romilly supported Decigon’s application to strike two covenants, registered on the MDC property in 1981, in order for Decigon to proceed with its purchase option and subdivision application. One of the covenants deals with the ability to use land in the area for commercial use and limits ownership of the lands to residents of the Whistler Valley. The other limits the number of buildings allowed in the area. Justice Romilly found the building scheme and covenants were registered on the property in error and were impeding development of the land. "I am satisfied that the original purpose of the building scheme was to provide a low cost development for residents and/or employees of the Resort Municipality of Whistler. This objective was accomplished and the residents of this single family neighbourhood continue to enjoy the benefits of this building scheme," Romilly writes. "I am satisfied that the Petitioner’s lands are sufficiently removed from the neighbourhood known as Tapley’s Farm so the building scheme over these lands is of no practical benefit to these residents. I agree with the Petitioner when he suggests that the original object of the building scheme was to create a residential area with a limited area of single family homes and the original object would not be defeated by the intended development plans of Mega Funding Corp." So, have the benevolent intentions of MDC and the designers of Tapley’s Farm been subverted by developer dollars and subdivision plans? Not as long as any development is environmentally benign and does not alter the character of the neighbourhood, says Tapley’s Farm homeowner Milo Rusimovich. "It isn’t going to bother me if there are big log homes on huge 20 acre lots up there," Rusimovich says. "What myself and other residents were worried about was the implications from the removal of other covenants in the building scheme relating to the changing of water courses or streams… there is a substantial amount of sensitive wetland on the property that has to be protected." Larry Houghton, a principal with Decigon, says the company has been thwarted by the municipality during the past 18 years as Decigon attempted to put forward development schemes for their existing property, commonly known as the Emerald Forest. "Over the past 18 years we have had dozens of schemes and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of planning go into that land and we have gotten nowhere," Houghton says. "We (Decigon) are not big developers we are a group that wants to build on our land in Whistler, which we have paid taxes on since before Whistler Village even existed." With the restrictive building scheme removed, Houghton says Decigon will push ahead with a "low impact" subdivision on the Decigon lands and the soon-to-be-purchased MDC lands. "We’re giving up on most of our ideas," he says. "Council has eroded so many of the permitted uses on RR1 land that we just want to build ourselves some homes on our property." Ken Melamed, president of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, says it is important to maintain the environmental integrity of the sensitive wetlands along the River of Golden Dreams. He says the covenants were put on the land for a reason and if they were to be removed, the public should have been involved. "This whole process looks to be very closed, between a landowner looking to sell and a developer looking to develop," Melamed says. "The land in question is a very important part of a non-developable wildlife corridor essential to the environmental health of the valley… and that is important to everyone in Whistler, not just Decigon and MDC."