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Whistler tries to block subdivision on northern border

SLRD limits development in Area C north of Whistler as it clears the way for one large residential development

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The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is moving forward with plans for a large residential subdivision on Whistler’s northern boundaries, despite staunch opposition from the resort municipality.

The Green River Country Estates development in Area C of the SLRD is proposed to go on a two kilometre stretch of land north of Green Lake on the east side of Highway 99.

Whistler council, however, unanimously pledged to fight any new development on its boundaries at Monday’s council meeting in a motion brought forward by Councillor Ken Melamed.

Not only is Whistler trying to do this by asking the province for a massive boundary expansion, the resort municipality also hopes to wield influence with the regional district, who would ultimately give the green light for projects on Whistler’s fringe.

Melamed asked for council support to fight development on the boundaries after learning about plans for the Green River Country Estates.

"I found out about this subdivision on our boundaries and I said ‘we’ve got to find a way to stop it,’" said Melamed after Monday’s meeting. "We don’t know how we can intercede and we’re going to plead with the regional district but it’s a little bit shocking that they’ve gone ahead as they have, knowing our wishes."

Whistler’s wishes have been clearly articulated by the community as a whole, who chose to contain further residential development within the existing built area during the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan process last year. That meant any future development would only occur between Function Junction in the south and Emerald Estates in the north.

That decision effectively ruled out the Callaghan Valley, which is 17 km south of Whistler Village, as a future residential development node.

Though the Green River development isn’t within Whistler’s existing boundaries, it’s right on the edge – close enough to have the municipality worried.

"I guess the best way to describe it is if you look at the examples of what’s happened in the United States," said Melamed. "We saw this very clearly on our last trip to Park City (Utah). You’ve got your municipal boundaries and a development pattern that’s controlled by the city and then off the borders, you’ve got the county and there it’s classic sprawl…. You’ve got all these little communities spotted through the foothills between Park City and Salt Lake City, scattering the landscape, consuming valuable land…"

Melamed called that kind of planning the antithesis of Smart Growth, which is defined as a collection of urban development strategies to reduce sprawl that are fiscally, environmentally and socially responsible.

"It’s the reason we didn’t choose the Callaghan for our athletes village. Whistler is committed to developing using Smart Growth principles and that means discouraging sprawl," he added.

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