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Prism deal a rare 'win-win'

Resort Municipality of Whistler 'extremely excited' with acquisition

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As the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) heads into its first budget open house on Monday, Feb. 4, residents might expect to see some line items associated with the recently acquired Prism lands.

"We're extremely excited," said Mayor Jack Crompton.

"Land acquisitions like this are crucial investments for future generations. We want to be good stewards of this place, and (keeping) land like this in public hands helps us do that."

The RMOW acquired 40 hectares of the 44-hectare lands last year via a land swap, which will also allow the owners to subdivide the remaining land into five residential estate lots.

A large area of the parcel isn't suitable for development, but about 0.4 ha. of the land will be combined to an existing, adjacent 0.8-ha. parcel already owned by the RMOW, and designated for employee housing.

The plans for the remainder of the land are mostly associated with park uses, Crompton said.

"We'll be able to do some wildfire protection, it provides a legal right-of-way for existing municipal sewer mainline, (and) public access for existing trails," he said.

"And then finally, and most exciting for me, is land for a future Valley Trail connection to Function Junction from Alta Lake Road."

There's also potential to make that connection wide enough to allow emergency-vehicle access, opening up a crucial second avenue through the Whistler Valley, though Crompton said conversations have focused solely on the Valley Trail aspect to this point.

"I expect you would see something related to the Valley Trail connection as part of the budget process," he said.

Of the new RMOW property (not to be confused with the Zen lands), more than 20 ha. are located in what's called the Hillside Lands, (which contains fan-favourite westside trails like S. Danimal, Moose Knuckles, Lower Sprout, Piece of Cake and more), while a further 16 ha. or so is located on the Protected Area Network 1-designated Millar Creek Lands.

What started as a potentially litigious situation back in 2015 ended favourably for all involved, said Crosland Doak, who the proponents hired as a land-use planner and negotiator.

"At the staff level, it went relatively smoothly," Doak said, commending the RMOW's senior planning staff for its professionalism.

"It always gets a bit prickly at the very end when the lawyers get back involved, and all the land-use agreements and all the covenants get filed ... but the big, heavy work had been done."

The owners—two business partners from Vancouver Island—are happy with the result as well, Doak said.

"It is unusual to end up with this good of a win-win for both parties," he said.

"We avoided litigation and the municipality got 99 acres (40 ha.), and they got a modest little development that will pay for legal fees and consulting fees and maybe put a little bit of money in their pocket, too."

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