The mixed market and restricted housing project met with opposition at almost every turn
A housing proposal planned for the shores of Lake Nita is set to go ahead despite considerable opposition from neighboring residents almost from the time the project was first introduced.
At the June 21 council meeting, elected officials heard more comments from an earlier public hearing on the proposed 43-unit project for a 1.93-hectare site at 5298 Alta Lake Road. Many of the comments against the project at the April 6 public hearing were similar to a previous hearing held last March (the second public hearing was triggered after administrative oversight at City Hall), regarding everything from environmental impacts, traffic, affordability and community benefits.
One of the first proposals to be considered under the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) private developer guidelines for employee housing, the Empire Club project has changed significantly since first appearing in 2018. is approved, it would add 21 employee units, 11 tourist accommodation (AT) units and 11 market residential units to the 1.93 hectare plot on the shores of Lake Nita.
There were previously 22 TA units on offer, but half of those have been replaced with market residential units “as it was seen to have less of an impact on the existing neighborhood,” said RMOW senior planner Melissa Laidlaw. .
In total, the project would add 88 market housing beds and 72 employee housing beds, the latter representing 65% of the beds added during the various iterations of the project.
If approved, the overall site density would increase from an existing maximum permitted density of 4,600 square meters to 6,282 m², which equates to a floor area ratio of 0.37 for employee and office units. 0.36 for market units and TA, “Well within accepted limits (floor-to-space ratio) for other zoned townhouse developments in Whistler that are subject to the same OCP land use map designations”, indicates the report.
A draft housing agreement fixed the unit price for employee housing at $425 per square foot plus the same percentage, if any, of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Canada since the date of registration of the housing agreement. Subsequent selling prices will also be linked to the CPI. Therefore, the price of each employee unit will range from approximately $265,200 to $297,500 for the 12 two-bedroom townhouses and $645,150 for eight of the nine three-bedroom townhouses (one of these units will be designated as rental).
“This is a very affordable price within the spectrum of current employee housing developments in Whistler,” said Laidlaw. “And further, the developer, not the RMOW, assumes all risk. It is therefore a risk that includes the cost of transporting the land, the increase in construction costs over time, as well as delays in schedules, which can lead to increased costs.
Traffic and parking were another thorny issue for critics of the project. Although some of the comments from the hearing noted how the site, with its proximity to Creekside and public transport links, was well suited for employee housing, others expressed concern about the increase of traffic and access to parking, as well as the relevance of a traffic study. made on the site on Wednesday October 9, 2019 which critics say did not reflect peak times. A subsequent study by Howes Technicial Advantage in January 2021, however, found that the traffic generated by the development would be “well below” the capacity of Nita Lake Drive and Alta Lake Road and “minimal” compared to the total traffic volume. on the highway. 99.
“The traffic consultant used good engineering practices as well as a sound approach in its assumptions, data collection, route generation and traffic analysis,” the RMOW report said.
Some community members have suggested that the lands be accessed by an alternate alignment, such as by the adjacent Tyrol Lodge lands at 5302 Alta Lake Road, but club representation noted that the right of way “would present a safety risk. and great expense,” according to the report.
At the council meeting, officials gave a third reading to an Official Community Plan (OCP) Amendment Bylaw and Zoning Amendment Bylaw attached to the project, and staff ultimately recommended no changes to the plan. one or the other based on submissions from the April 6 hearing. They did, however, recommend revising the zoning amendment by-law to clarify the construction schedule, requiring the 21 employee units to be built before or at the same time as the construction of any tourist accommodation or residential townhouses and prohibiting the occupancy of these units prior to the municipality issuing the occupancy permits for the employee units.
During the public comment periods, many comments highlighted the potential environmental impacts of the Project on one of Whistler’s most important remaining riparian areas. Under the OCP amending regulations, 36% of the site will be designated as a Protected Natural Area and Parks and Recreation, which will “effectively provide a buffer zone between the lake shore and the development, preserving the views”, said Laidlaw.
Other environmental conditions on the developer may be required through the development permit process, which is in addition to the existing requirements to dedicate the 1.44 ha. plot of land at RMOW for nature conservation and park area. RMOW staff also reviewed and supported three different environmental reports related to the project.
Other development required from the proponent includes 0.5 ha. of land dedicated to future employee housing, an extension of the Sentier de la Vallée and the restoration of two heritage buildings on the site. In 2020, the total value of amenities attached to the development was estimated at $20.65 million.