Whistler is one step closer to getting a second gas station, after council gave First Nations’ plans a thumbs up on Monday night.
“It is just a great thing that the Whistler mayor and council have really stepped up not only to the original agreement that we signed but that they are also living up to the things that were agreed to,” said Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob.
“I’ve got a lot of praise for them.”
The gas station will go in Function Junction, between Highway 99 and the railway, on a 2.15 hectare (10 acre) piece of property co-owned by the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations.
The gas station will be twice the size of the Husky facility, at 5,000 square metres, and would be accessed from a public road that would connect to Alpha Lake Road, near the existing intersection with Lynham Road.
Jacob said whether the gas station will be an existing brand name or independently run has not yet been decided.
“I know there was some interest from some groups. It is pretty much up to my project negotiations development team to put all that stuff together,” he said.
Currently the Husky station on Lake Placid Road is the only gas station in Whistler. A Petro-Canada site in Creekside was closed in 2006 for environmental remediation work, and Petro-Canada has still not announced their future plans for the site.
Having only one gas station has been a concern for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and on Monday Mayor Ken Melamed said the municipality is anxious to get a second station in before the 2010 Olympics.
The gas station will take up one third of the First Nations’ property. The rest of the space will consist of light industrial and limited commercial uses like offices, light manufacturing, retail and fitness studios.
According to Guy Patterson, housing planner for the municipality, only 25 per cent of the area can be office space.
Also, a 20-metre tree buffer has to be built between the site and Highway 99, since the property is prominently situated at the southern entrance to Whistler.
Councillor Bob Lorriman said he would like to see timelines for the First Nations’ development because he is concerned about the look of a half constructed site at the entrance to Whistler during the Olympics.
“I would like to see the timelines nailed down so we are not caught in the middle of the Games with this construction site,” said Lorriman.
Mayor Melamed also asked about the green building standards of the gas station.
Despite concerns, council unanimously gave first and second reading to the First Nations’ proposal and a public hearing will be scheduled soon.
First Nations enthused about Alpine North
While the two First Nations are looking forward to building the gas station at Function Junction, Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob said they are most excited about the Alpine North neighbourhood.
“That one is the more significant one, in my mind,” said Jacob.
“It is a huge project, and it’s something that we need to get developed and get on the market… The other one, the Function Junction property, is going to be a project, but it is not going to be of the scope and economic returns to our Nations as the Alpine North one.”
The Alpine North residential development will consist of up to 48 detached houses and duplexes as well as 42 townhouses built directly behind the new Rainbow neighbourhood. Whistler council gave third reading to the bylaws for the development on Monday night.
Jacob said he did not know who will build the new development. But he pointed out that the project management company for the Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre was First Nation, and he hopes to go down the same path.
“We are training our young people to get them working, whether it be on or off reserve,” said Jacob.
“I know for the Sea to Sky Highway, for example, we had close to 80 Squamish people working on different components, including office, janitorial, heavy duty operating, you name it. I am assuming we are going down the same path.”
The First Nations received both the Alpine North and Function Junction properties as part of the Olympic Legacy Land Agreement. The agreement, signed in May 2007 with the province the Resort Municipality of Whistler, gave the two First Nations eight plots of land in exchange for agreeing to host part of the 2010 Olympics on Squamish and Lil’wat traditional territory.
Revenue from developing the legacy lands is expected to offset the cost of running the Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre, which opened this summer in Whistler.