News » Whistler

RBC renovation on hold until RMOW ready

Two-year policy review expected soon, say municipal staff



By Alison Taylor

Upgrades to the Royal Bank building, along with an expansion, are on hold until a policy to deal with village re-development is approved.

Council sent a rezoning application back to staff Monday night with several comments on the proposal, which would have revamped the building.

“(There’s) no question that this building needs a facelift,” said Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “(It’s) certainly showing its age.”

But she felt the application was putting the cart before the horse, given that all village redevelopment in the Commercial Core 1 or CC1 zone, which stretches from Tantalus Lodge in the south to Village Gate Boulevard at the north and Blackcomb Way to the east, is frozen pending a municipal policy review.

The policy has been under review for more than two years.

Bob MacPherson, general manager of planning and development at the municipality, told council the policy, or at least a discussion piece on the policy, should be close to being completed by the end of the year.

“The process is a little backwards,” said Councillor Wilhelm-Morden, who asked council to put the application on hold.

The owner of the Cornerstone Building, which houses the Royal Bank, is looking to increase the size of the building from 17,000 square feet to more than 20,500 square feet — a 21 per cent increase in gross floor area.

The addition would create space for an employee housing unit on the top floor, beside the existing tourist accommodation unit there.

The CC1 zone currently does not allow residential use. Staff is recommending that the CC1 zone be amended to allow a single restricted residential unit per parcel to encourage some residential occupancy in the village.

This developer, however, is asking council to remove the price restrictions on the unit but restrict occupancy to a Whistler resident.

Councillor Tim Wake, former general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority, said he doesn’t know of any resident restricted housing approved in the last 10 years that didn’t have price restrictions.

“I see that as a huge red flag,” he said.

At the very least, he said the application must be vetted with comment from the WHA.

The developer is also looking for a liquor license to bring a restaurant/pub to the vacant spot once used by Tokyo Tom’s and A & W.

The previous council instructed staff to do a policy review on the CC1 zone to provide clarity to building owners. Under the zoning, buildings in the CC1 are allowed a floor space ratio of 3.5. Most are nowhere near that big. The Cornerstone building for example has a FSR of 1.47.

There is a caveat — all properties have a covenant on title restricting development to what was originally built. Their size and shape were based, in part, on a design to protect view corridors and sun exposure.

A report to council from May 2004 on the CC1 policy states:

“The actual existing approved densities are considered to be the intended base densities for each parcel as established by the Whistler Village Master Plan, Whistler Village Design Guidelines, approved development permits and registered development covenants.”

Several property owners, however, see the 3.5 FSR maximum in the zoning as a way to recoup the cost of upgrading by adding more units.

Councillor Bob Lorriman said he hoped the CC1 policy would be coming soon enough to allow property owners the chance to upgrade their properties before the 2010 Games.