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Municipal staff supports Lower Cheakamus for village

Council defers decision until public input from CSP open house on Saturday, June 26

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Following an extensive site selection process, municipal staff has picked the Lower Cheakamus as their preferred site for Whistler’s 2010 Olympic athletes village.

If council accepts staff’s recommendation, the town’s landfill will be facing its final days and the municipality will be faced with a tough decision about what to do with the town’s garbage.

In the meantime, council has deferred their final decision on the village site until the community has a chance to comment.

Bob MacPherson, general manager of planning and development for the RMOW, walked council through staff’s site selection process at Monday’s council meeting, explaining how staff came to choose between the Lower Cheakamus site at the south end of town and the Rainbow lands in the north.

Residents will be able to go through this same site selection process, which weighs the pros and cons of the two best athletes village sites, at an open house for the draft Comprehensive Sustainability Plan on Saturday, June 26.

Tucked east of the municipal landfill opposite Function Junction, the Lower Cheakamus site has always been the backup site for Whistler’s athletes village.

The first choice, outlined in the Olympic Bid Book, was in the Callaghan Valley but the community rejected that site in the winter during a consultation process.

Before settling on the Lower Cheakamus, council directed staff to explore all their options between Function Junction and Emerald Estates, including the Alpha Creek lands, the Whistler Golf Course and the Park Georgia site in between the Montebello townhomes and Highway 99.

Five sites were soon narrowed down to two and staff embarked on a fairly detailed examination of the Lower Cheakamus and the Rainbow lands.

A number of factors immediately favoured the southern site.

The Lower Cheakamus is closer to the Olympic venues.

The International Olympic Committee’s Co-ordination Commission highlighted location concerns during their March visit to the resort.

MacPherson said the commission was concerned about the distance of the Rainbow lands to the venues, which could result in some athletes choosing private accommodation over the athletes village.

Another factor weighing in favour of the Lower Cheakamus is that the land is made up of Crown land, which means Whistler can use all or part of its 300-acre land bank legacy, negotiated during the Olympic bid phase.

The Rainbow site, on the other hand, could only be used for an athletes village if Crown land was combined with privately owned land, which would have to have been purchased.

"The owners have indicated that they would be willing to sell at a price that is well in excess of the assessed value," wrote MacPherson in his administrative report to council.

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