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Reduced parking paves way for Rainbow

Bylaws prepared by end of October, public hearing to follow

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Whistler’s largest employee housing project could still be on track to break ground in the spring.

New information on the Rainbow lands project, presented to council at Monday’s afternoon workshop, revealed that most of the problems with the development are well on the way to being solved.

Council may even consider first and second readings of the development bylaws in a special meeting later this month. The project is to deliver more than 300 units of employee housing to a waitlist of more than 500 applicants and their families.

"It’s encouraging to see a lot of the issues being resolved," said Councillor Ken Melamed. "It’s getting closer."

The development deal hinged on a Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the developers, the municipality and the Whistler Housing Authority in March. That deal outlined how many units of housing were to be built before there had been a detailed analysis of the site. When that detailed work was completed the planners ran into problems fitting it all onto the site.

"The site planning has been a real challenge here," said Bob MacPherson, general manager of planning and development services, in his presentation to council.

In recent weeks, staff recognized they were trying too hard to deliver what was outlined in the MOU and took a step back to determine what was the best plan for the site.

The revised site plan is close to being completed and, as it turns out, it’s very similar to what was envisioned in the MOU.

One major change is the parking requirements for the single family homes. MacPherson admitted the two cars per unit parking requirement was tough to meet. The underground parking that was originally proposed proved to be too expensive.

"The other thing that was absolutely killing us was the parking requirement," he said.

To fit the site better, the parking requirement has decreased from two parking stalls per unit to 1.25.

A revised site plan includes the use of carports, close to each node of development. It would be a short walk from the carport, shared by six or seven single family units, to the front door of each home.

"This is what we think the site is telling us to do," said MacPherson.

If the owners or renters at Rainbow feel as though they need a place to park a second car there may be reserved room in the commercial core area, located at the entrance to the neighbourhood, just a short walk away from any of the housing units.

Despite earlier concerns about the large size of the commercial development, staff is still leaning towards a recommendation that would see 19,000 square feet of commercial space developed.

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