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Whistler Workforce waiting on building permit

No provisions in B.C. building code for temporary structures also caused delays



Although a crane has been on site for weeks now, the Whistler Workforce temporary housing project is still waiting on a building permit, its chief proponent said Monday.

Last month Alvaro Ponce de Leon, the North Vancouver architect behind the project, projected the temporary housing would be ready for occupancy by the end of March. This week he told Pique he is now waiting on a building permit from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, but he's hoping that it'll come through this week.

"We already submitted all the necessary documentation and they are actually reviewing all the different documents and drawings and whatnot," Ponce de Leon said. "They're doing all their due diligence... most likely it would take two weeks."

He said the projection for occupancy in March was a soft deadline and that he's been bogged down in documentation needed to get the temporary housing off the ground. Much of that has involved trying to conform to B.C. building codes, which have no provisions for temporary buildings that look like permanent ones, according to him.

That has forced developers of the project to comply with building codes for permanent buildings.

"All this documentation is crazy," he said. "I've been doing documents for the last three or four months already. We have more than nine consultants now, this is crazy because there's no provisions in the B.C. codes, as far as I know, for temporary buildings that look like permanents."

When completed, the project will have 360 beds, up from the 300-350 that had originally been anticipated. There used to be only five beds in each of the project's 60 dwellings, but Ponce de Leon wanted to keep the suites affordable so he decided to put an extra bed in each suite and have kitchens in a common room.

"It's like a dorm," he said. "We're trying to keep it as affordable as possible, especially now that we have all this slowdown, all this world financial turmoil, so that was another hurdle that we had."

The temporary housing is scheduled to be removed from the Whistler Racquet Club site by summer 2010.

The buildings themselves are currently being assembled by Chateau Homes, a company that designs custom single- and multi-family wood-frame houses at a manufacturing facility in Richmond. Ponce de Leon said Chateau has built a few of the buildings already but that they're waiting there until Whistler Workforce receives its building permit.

Getting them built is purely a matter of playing the waiting game, according to Ponce de Leon.

"It's up to them, up to how fast they can actually do the review and get us the permits," he said. "They're doing the best they can, I cannot force them anymore."

Whistler Workforce is, in fact, the second iteration of a temporary housing project that will house Whistler workers through the 2010 Olympics.

An earlier project spearheaded by a group of Whistler businesses, known as Phoenix, was announced in 2008 as a temporary solution to Whistler's seasonal housing crunch. That project fell apart when financing for supplier SG Blocks fell through. The temporary housing idea was thought dead until Ponce de Leon and independent project manager John Jervis stepped forward to resuscitate the concept.

Ponce de Leon is now aiming to have the project up and ready for occupancy in April, though as before, he said, "nothing is for sure."

"I'm always saying February then March then April," he said. "The last straw is basically the building permit and we'll go from there."

A spokeswoman for the RMOW confirmed that its building department had received Whistler Workforce's building permit application but could not comment further.

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