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Regional district defers decision on RMOW boundary expansion

Developer of Wedge property asks for time to present plans to Whistler council, SLRD board

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The regional district board has yet to decide whether it will support Whistler’s boundary expansion application which is before the provincial government.

The board was to have decided on the boundary expansion one way or another at December’s monthly meeting but instead the majority voted to defer a decision until the New Year.

John Turner, the new chair of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District board, explained his reluctance to vote on the boundary expansion. He said there is a dearth of information about the proposal and its potential impact on a residential development that is now in the regional district near Wedge Mountain.

"If we rule on one then we’re also ruling on the other one," he added.

He wants to wait until he has more information about the Wedge development before throwing his support behind Whistler’s expansion.

Whistler applied to the provincial government for a large boundary expansion stretching outwards in four directions earlier this year. The SLRD has been asked to comment on the expansion as part of the provincial referral process.

If Whistler’s expansion is approved the resort municipality will swallow more than 10,000 hectares of land once part of the regional district. In particular, the northern expansion encompasses a roughly 500-acre parcel of land near Wedge Mountain, which has been actively considered for development by the regional district for the past two years.

Developers plan to build a residential community called Green River Country Estates. Preliminary plans call for the land to be subdivided into 28 parcels which would allow more than one home on each parcel.

In a recent letter to the SLRD, Peter Bruckmann, the developer of the Wedge property, asked for time to present the facts of his application to Whistler council and the SLRD board before the board decides on the boundary expansion.

Bruckmann explained that he does not want the Green River Country Estates development annexed by the municipality. Instead, he wants to keep the land within the SLRD.

"We have been working in good faith with your planning department to create a residential development for District Lot 2247 for approximately two years," he wrote.

"We believe that we have responded favourably to their input. We have considerable investment in trying to provide a development plan that not only complies with your (SLRD) zoning but provides additional benefits to other communities in your jurisdiction. In this manner we have been making every effort possible to provide the region with a unique opportunity that is beneficial to the SLRD without adversely impacting on the RMOW."

But Whistler is concerned about the impacts of fringe development such as the one proposed by Bruckmann.

At a November meeting Whistler council unanimously pledged to fight any new development on its fringes, in part because the resort has made a clear commitment to limiting and containing growth within its own boundaries. Fringe development goes against that work.

Whistler’s Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said after the meeting that Whistler staff has seen the Wedge application and does not support the development.

"It’s our preference, obviously, that it would not go ahead," he said.

At Friday’s SLRD meeting O’Reilly did not support the deferral for the decision on Whistler’s boundary expansion.

"Our concern is just the delay," he said. He added that the SLRD should be responding to the province in a timelier manner.

The majority of the board, however, voted to push back a decision on the RMOW’s expansion until the New Year.

"I think otherwise we’re voting without having all the facts," said Russ Oakley, electoral area director for Area A. "A one month deferral isn’t going to kill this thing."

The Wedge developers have requested an opportunity to present their development proposal to Whistler council at their earliest convenience and will follow that with a presentation to the regional district board.

"We believe that Whistler’s negative reaction to our development may partially be based on inadequate information," wrote Bruckmann.

"We would like the opportunity to present the details of our development to the Whistler Council in hopes that they will see that what we are planning will not have an adverse impact on their community."

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