By Cindy Filipenko
The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District did a 180-degree turn on the Green River Estates rezoning Monday.
The board unanimously passed a motion Sept. 25 to defer a decision regarding the development’s rezoning application until the province makes its decisions regarding Whistlers northern boundary expansion application.
The 600-acre parcel of land, located between Whistler and Pemberton, currently falls under the jurisdiction of Electoral Area C. However, that could change if the province grants Whistler the boundary expansion the municipality has requested.
In August, the board had voted to allow the project’s developer to expand the site from 64 to 108 lots. At that time, Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed had made an impassioned argument that the decision should be delayed pending the outcome of Whistler’s boundary expansion application. However, Melamed’s argument was ignored, with the board voting to allow the developer to add an addition 54 lots to the project.
The motion to reconsider the issue was brought forward by Electoral Area C Director Susie Gimse.
“It wasn’t an easy decision. But at the end of the day I felt I didn’t want to frustrate or complicate the provincial government’s ability to make a decision on the boundary expansion issue,” said Gimse. “And that’s it.”
The director said there were no other issues influencing her bringing the issue back to the table.
“This has absolutely nothing to do with Whistler’s decision to withdraw from the planning function. I know that I have always dealt with issues on a case-by-case issue and look at every issue on its merits. When I considered the fact that the most simple rezoning application is at least a six-month process, in addition to that, I had conversations with the ministry and it was confirmed that it does complicate their ability to make a decision on the boundary expansion issue. It was for that reason and that reason only that I put forward that resolution,” said Gimse.
When the provincial government will rule on the Whistler boundary expansion application is anyone’s guess.
“I’ve understood for a very long time that that decision is imminent. And others have expected it to come along fairly soon and it hasn’t,” says Gimse. “Maybe we need to focus more energy on encouraging the province to resolve that issue quickly.”
The boundary expansion issue began being discussed at a council level in Whistler in 2001. In September 2002 Brian Dolson, deputy minister at the Ministry of Community Services, wrote to the municipality assuring mayor and council that the matter would be expedited.
“I’m sure everyone would agree that four years doesn’t sound like the matter’s been expedited,” said Melamed.
Melamed was pleased that the board unanimously decided to rescind the motion.
“It’s big news for Whistler, it’s what I had asked for. I do believe that I suggested it could complicate the province’s decision making,” said Melamed. “It’s now in the proper order. We can now focus energy on being successful and continuing to work on the Regional Growth Strategy.”
Melamed is optimistic that the RMOW will be successful in securing the boundary expansion, the last of the three Olympic legacies the municipality has been seeking since the Bid phase. The two other legacies that have been secured are financial tools and the land bank.
Green River Estates developer David Ehrhardt could not be reached for comment on the SLRD’s reconsideration of the project’s rezoning.