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Report analyzes more than 60 sites for potential resident housing



Thousands of infill housing units could be developed

Opportunity abounds to build thousands of resident housing units between Function Junction and Emerald Estates, according to a study recently presented to council.

The comparative study of resident housing sites, which focuses on privately held lands and some small pieces of Crown land, highlights 61 sites that could be suitable for resident housing.

"Most of these properties we’ve known are out there," said Sharon Jensen, of Jensen Resort Planning, who delivered the report to council on Monday night with fellow members of her research team.

"But we’ve never really counted up the number before or done the assessment that we did, which was to find the developable areas of each site."

Estimating the housing capacity on the top 33 sites, the report shows that even if 20 per cent of this land was developed, it could produce almost 1,700 resident housing units.

Most of these sites are privately held lands like the Alpha Creek lands near Function Junction and the Rainbow lands between Alpine and Emerald.

Some Crown land sites were also analyzed, such as the lands above the highways maintenance yard between the Village and Creekside.

Council received the report on Monday night but did not debate the merits or faults of the individual sites.

Only Councillor Ken Melamed raised some concerns, adding that community groups like AWARE and other stakeholders might want to review the study and provide input too.

"There are some eyebrow raisers in here for me," he said, though he did not elaborate on any sites.

Local real estate agent and former Whistler Mayor Drew Meredith, who was part of the study team, explained that the study was intended to inventory and analyze the sites objectively.

"We decided as a group that we did not want to be political in this," said Meredith.

Melamed also added that council needs to workshop this report and figure out how it fits into the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan, the document that will guide development in Whistler for the next 20 years.

"This is a study," he said after the meeting, adding that it’s not a call for private landholders and developers to start bringing forward development proposals to municipal hall.

"This is not a council policy."

The sites in the Comparative Evaluation of Potential Resident Housing Sites report were rated based on various elements, like opportunities to connect to the municipal sewer and water systems, topography of the land and environmental constraints.

Of the top 33 potential development sites, nine were rated "good", meaning appropriate development could occur. Among those sites are the Alpha Creek Lands, Cheakamus North, the Chevron White Gold site and the Lost Lake Estates in White Gold. These sites are not currently zoned for intense development.

A further seven sites were rated "zoned", meaning they are already zoned for intensive mixed and/or commercial uses but have not been developed yet.

The report explains: "The ultimate use and density will likely result from complex planning negotiations between the landowner and the Municipality, with each having the potential to yield a component of resident housing."

Among these sites are the London Mountain Lodge property on the west side of Nita Lake, the Bunbury property in Creekside, Village North Lots 1/9 and the Shoestring Lodge/Boot property.

The rest of the sites are rated moderate, fair and poor.

The Crown lands above the highways maintenance yard, the south third of the Whistler Golf Course, and the private Parkhurst Lands at the north end of Whistler all received "poor" ratings, meaning there was little likelihood of development opportunities in the near future.

The municipality commissioned the study, through the Whistler Housing Authority, in December.

The intent was to look at private lands, which had not been considered in the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan. That plan looked at large pieces of Crown land as potential resident housing sites.

"In all I think we looked at over 100 properties," said Jensen.

In addition to the 33 areas of potential development sites, the report also found a further 15 sites categorized as under-developed, which means they are already used as residential or commercial but are under-utilized and could support resident housing.

An additional 13 sites were categorized as small infill sites and road ends that could yield small amounts of housing.

Meredith explained the study’s findings could be used as a tool to help the municipality review rezoning applications, or review potential sites to purchase, and it can also help in choosing the 300 acres of Crown land which is part of the Olympic land bank legacy.

Council praised the research team, which included Cascade Environmental Resource Group, CJ Anderson Civil Engineering, Drew Meredith and Sharon Jensen.

Councillor Kristi Wells called the $30,000 report "incredible value" and thanked the team for taking real community pride in their project.