News » Whistler

nita lale

A mapping error that went unnoticed for more than a decade may have legal ramifications for the municipality whether council decides to live with the error and allow a developer to build or down zones the property to what it thought it was in the first place. Andrew Crosse of First Pacific Projects Ltd. wants to build nine log cabins on two waterfront properties on Nita Lake, beside the Alpine 68 condominiums and the original Alpine Village condos. The properties he has an option to purchase are zoned RR1 and RM1, which allow six bed units and 48 bed units respectively. He has applied to re-distribute those 54 bed units over both properties. The problem is the municipality says it thought the properties were both zoned RR1. The issue almost came to a head at Monday’s meeting as Councillor Dave Kirk made a motion, seconded by Hugh O’Reilly and supported by Max Kirkpatrick, to down zone the RM 1 property to RR1. With only Councillors Bill Murray and Kristi Wells siding with the developer, and Councillor Thelma Johnstone absent, the development proposal appeared to be dead. However, Mayor Ted Nebbeling urged councillors to put the issue off to the next meeting, allowing time for consideration of all legal implications. After some discussion Kirk then withdrew his motion and the matter was tabled to July 4. A public information meeting on the matter will be held prior to the July 4 council meeting. Lawyers for the municipality say council has the legal right to down zone the RM1 property to RR1, as it was never intended to be RM1. However, Crosse says he would "suffer significant damages" if that was done. He says he has invested $25,000 and five months of time in the project. And with bed units valued at roughly $25,000 each, municipal solicitors are re-checking the municipality’s legal obligations prior to the July 4 meeting. "I think it would be a heinous act against property owners (if council down zoned the RM1 land)," Crosse says. "Down zoning is the ultimate in property seizure." Crosse also says: "I don’t think there’s evidence enough to support the mapping error." The error apparently occurred in 1983. At that time a new zoning bylaw inadvertently included the northern portion of the properties in question in the RM1 zoning which covers the Alpine 68 development. The RM1 and RR1 properties are divided by an access lane to Nita Lake. Between 1983 and 1989 there were three requests for re-zoning of the properties but the RM1 zoning was not noticed. Kirk noted that at least one of the applications was to rezone the property "from RR1." The question of why planning staff did not recognized the error during any of the previous re-zoning applications was not answered. A letter from a municipal planner to a real estate agent in December 1993 confirms the properties zoning at RR1 and RM1. While Crosse concedes council may have the legal right to down zone the property, he questions whether they have the moral or ethical right. "It’s not right for the municipality to send a letter and then say... we’re going to change the rules," Crosse says. "Legally they may have the right, but ethically and morally it’s wrong. That’s what I find so distasteful." Crosse also questions the probability of no one noticing the mapping error for a decade. However, councillor Hugh O’Reilly notes the property owner has paid taxes on RR1 land for years, and said council has an obligation to the community. "The community has said many times (about re-zoning proposals) ‘down zone, buy it, etcetera.’ Here’s an opportunity." Kirkpatrick noted that the 48 bed units on the RM1 land are not accounted for in the bed unit inventory. Crosse’s original application was to develop 12 single family log houses on the properties. He now says he is asking for permission to develop nine single family home sites over the two properties. He also says he will build a trail to connect Nita Lane to the Valley Trail.