The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) looks like it’s changed its tune on the proposed Mons Road development project.
Last month council hit the brakes on final approval of the rezoning that would have turned the area into an industrial, recreational and transportation hub.
At its Aug. 21 meeting the bylaw was presented for adoption, but council members sent the project back to staff for further information, which was then provided by staff at Tuesday’s (Sept. 18) council meeting.
“I appreciate the increased information and I’m satisfied with how this development is proceeding,” said Coun. Andrée Janyk during the meeting.
Tuesday’s information report provided a more detailed list of the allowable uses for the site under the proposed bylaw, and addressed concerns that the area would be an eyesore unless it was covered by a substantial tree line.
Council’s request for clarification on all of the site’s potential uses under the new bylaw, as well as their concerns over the size of the build out and possible competition with the Function Junction area, prevented final approval on one of Whistler’s largest development initiatives in years.
This was a surprising move — one that disappointed the project’s developers, Steve Bayly and Nigel Woods — considering that municipalities typically pass proposed bylaws after three readings and a public hearing.
“We took a lot of heat for not just adopting this bylaw. I don’t know if there’s been a time in our history that a bylaw reached third reading without passing,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
The rezoning project aimed at developing an almost seven hectare swath of land near Highway 99, has been years in the making, with Whistler’s previous council approving the project’s third reading in November 2011.
After spending more than $2 million meeting the municipality’s requirements for the site, Bayly is happy that the project is back on track.
“I think we’re moving forward and we’re glad to be doing that rather than fighting,” he said, after considering taking legal action against the municipality in August for financial damages caused by the delays.
“I look forward to adoption and getting on with the project,” he added.
With final approval awaiting, the mayor thanked Bayly and Woods for resuming talks with the municipality.
“Thank you for coming back to us without litigators beside you,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll have a better development because of it.”
Eric Prall, president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) Sea to Sky chapter, expressed dismay at the municipality’s decision to delay final approval of the project in a Sept. 4 letter to council.
“It is of critical importance for the council and mayor to realize that revisiting decisions made by previous councils and any action construed or perceived as an attempt to circumvent due process will be very damaging to any efforts to engage the development community and attract investment,” he wrote in the letter.
The statement was promptly retracted in a Sept. 17 letter, with Prall admitting it “was not thoroughly vetted nor edited internally and does not represent the opinion of the CHBA Sea to Sky.”
The second letter went on to praise “the level of professionalism and understanding demonstrated by the council and mayor along with the staff in fostering a collaborative and stable confidence-filled environment for the building and development community.”
Prall did not respond to The Question’s requests for comment.
Despite council’s positive reception of the staff report, concerns were still raised at the meeting.
“I think it’ll be tough with the guys in Function to compete with (the Mons area)… because of (its) proximity to the Village,” said Coun. Jayson Faulkner.
Another rezoning initiative that could compete with Mons, and one that the RMOW has a vested interest in, is the proposal to open up Whistler’s transit facility to private bus companies.
The municipality continues to foot 53 per cent of the bill for the facility since its construction in 2010, with the province covering the rest.
Council members have stated their desire to allow private companies to pay for bus parking and maintenance at the site, garnering another revenue stream for the RMOW in the hopes of recouping some of the facility’s costs.
This would seemingly put the B.C. Transit site in direct competition with a developed Mons area, with talks of a bus washing facility going in along with other transportation services.
Council gave third reading to the transit site rezoning bylaw Tuesday. It has been refered to the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Community Sport and Cultural Development for approval before council can adopt it.