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OCP amendment premature, residents say



Council is urged back to negotiating table over the Callaghan Valley

Concerned valley residents say council does not have enough information yet to change the Official Community Plan to allow resident housing in the Callaghan and Cheakamus.

About a dozen people, some of whom had travelled north from Squamish, spoke out at a public hearing on the Callaghan before Monday’s council meeting.

A handful supported the bylaw to change the OCP, which would permit development of residential housing in the Callaghan Valley and the South Cheakamus Bench, across from Function Junction.

But the majority urged council to proceed with caution.

"I think it’s a bit scary for a lot of people in the valley to have council adopt this carte blanche," said Johnny Mikes.

"It would be polite to ask the people what they thought of it before such a big change is contemplated."

Administrator Jim Godfrey reminded council that the eventual fate of the Callaghan Valley will be decided by the people of Whistler.

"It will be decided through the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan," Godfrey said.

At present the OCP does not enable development in either site. The amendment before council would allow for that possibility in the future.

Recently the province assured Whistler that the 300-acre Callaghan site would be given to the municipality as a land bank. It is part of a legacy package that comes with bidding for the Olympic Games. It is also the preferred site for an athletes village should Vancouver win the 2010 Olympic Bid.

"The negotiations are yet to be finalized," said Godfrey.

"The intent is for Whistler to secure 300 acres. Whether or not the land is used is up to the discretion of council."

While some see the OCP amendment as a minor technical change, others are concerned that it will open the floodgates for development.

"I understand (the amendment is) necessary for the bid book... but keep it simple," cautioned incoming councillor Caroline Lamont, who was the first to speak at the public hearing.

"Don’t open the door to inappropriate bylaw amendments."

Lamont was concerned about the amendment because there was not enough information included in the staff report for council to make a fair judgement on things such as form and character of housing, yet some of those details are written into the proposed amendment.

There’s no mention of the athletes village in the staff report but at the same time it specifically mentions medium density housing that could go on the site.

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