Despite last week’s good news that construction on the Rainbow housing development should start Aug. 1 st , the waters around the future neighbourhood have turned muddy.
Several councillors are outraged that a “secondary purchaser clause” was slipped into the housing agreement and have stalled the project until an alternative deal is nailed out.
The secondary purchaser clause allows Whistler residents not on the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) waitlist to buy a home in Rainbow if no one on the waitlist wants to buy it. Councillors worry this clause, coupled with the fact the Rainbow units are priced higher than expected, may lead to a significant percentage of the homes not going to those who most need affordable housing in Whistler.
“I think I have fought as hard as anybody has to keep this project on the rails,” said Councillor Tim Wake.
“I want to see it move forward, but I can’t see it move forward in this format because basically it is not going to meet the need it was intended to meet.”
Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, visibly livid, went as far as to call the clause “absolutely outrageous”.
“I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take it anymore,” said Zeidler.
Almost all members of council said Monday they were frustrated this news was coming to them at the “11 th hour” when their “backs were against the wall”. They referred the housing agreement bylaw back to municipal staff and called an emergency council meeting for Thursday evening (June 19 at 5:30 in municipal hall).
Councillor Bob Lorriman was the only councillor to vote against the referral. He said: “We are essentially the board of directors, we are responsible for what our staff does, and if the developer negotiated this in good faith based on that, I do not believe we can have integrity and pull the rug out from underneath them at this stage.”
Even though council first saw the secondary purchaser clause last week, it came to municipal staff almost 11 months ago from the Rainbow developers. Bob MacPherson, general manager of community life for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said that the clause was only ready for “prime time” three weeks ago.
“We had an agreement with Rainbow about what the employee housing covenant would look like in June 2007, and then in July, they introduced a whole new concept that had several stages of potential purchasers,” explained MacPherson.
“We had some intensive discussions around that over a few months, and following that there was a lot of back and forth between Rainbow’s lawyer and our lawyer about how best to word the intent of the document. When it was ready for prime time, it went to council.”