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Ten years too long for tennis club development

New legislation tried in Whistler, raised red flags for council



Council is not willing to wait in limbo over the next decade for the delivery of seniors housing and a new tennis facility.

That was the message it sent to The Holborn Group developers Monday night as parts of the tennis club/market housing project got to the first step in the rezoning process.

Other parts, specifically the phasing on the project, were sent back to staff for more work and a legal opinion on getting concrete delivery dates.

“I can’t support this phasing agreement in this form,” said Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, alluding to past history of the site, which has been before council in several permutations.

“We want the tennis facility delivered.”

This could be the first time new provincial legislation is used in B.C., said municipal manager of community planning Bill Brown as he explained the phasing process to council.

Each phase of the tennis club project will be triggered by the completion of an earlier phase.

For example, the developer will build the first 33 townhouses (18 per cent of the total number of units), and will then apply to build the next parcel. Occupancy for that parcel will only be given once the new tennis club and fitness facility is complete. Before the developer can get occupancy in the final housing phase, he must get occupancy for a seniors housing complex.

The deal spans 10 years. That is the only date associated with the delivery of the project.

It is this timeframe that council took issue with, particularly after 84-year-old Betty McWhinnie appealed to them during the question and answer period to consider seniors’ needs and the fact that the Mature Action Committee has been actively lobbying for seniors housing in the resort since 1993.

Retired lawyer Garry Watson also spoke to council at this time, calling 10 years “totally unrealistic.”

“In my view there’s the prospect of giving this agreement certainty,” Watson told council.

Council took the comments to heart.

“Ten years is too long,” said Councillor Tim Wake, adding that it would be completely unrealistic for the community to potentially sit on a half-finished construction site for a decade.

“Let’s understand the expectations from both sides.”

Municipal manager of community life, Bob MacPherson, explained that the developer was concerned about market risk and rising construction costs in Whistler.

“They’ve been looking for flexibility to protect risk,” he said.

The Holborn Group development was last before council one year ago. Since that time staff has been negotiating various aspects of the project with the developer.

The Holborn Group wants to build up to 181 market housing units on site in townhouses and one seven storey apartment building.

The municipality, with the help of extensive lobbying from the local tennis community, has negotiated a deal for The Holborn Group to redevelop the existing tennis club facility complete with five indoor courts, a fitness facility, a weight room, the shell for two squash courts, change rooms and a restaurant.

Seven outdoor courts will be built too, including one stadium court with seating for 300 spectators.

A seniors housing apartment is also part of the deal.

The developers said Monday night that they plan to have the seniors housing complete within six years.

The tennis and fitness facility will be turned over to the municipality upon completion, along with $280,000 for new equipment.

Council had been hoping to have the indoor facility, which totals more than 56,000 square foot, ready before the 2010 Games. It is now clear that it will not be ready by that time.

The mayor asked about a financing model for the future operations of that facility. A budget has not yet been developed for the club.

The mayor also raised questions about potential construction on the site during the Games and the possible impacts that could have.

The site, which is located north of Village North, is currently zoned for a nine-storey hotel.