Mountain resorts: snow, skis and… court protection? 

Vancouver real estate developer with ties to Whistler latest to run into problems

A phrase that’s becoming more and more familiar to mountain-resort residents is "court protection."

First, Charlie Locke’s Resorts of the Canadian Rockies – which owns and operates eight ski areas across Canada including Fernie and Lake Louise – experiences a financial meltdown.

Now, United Properties Ltd., a Vancouver-based developer with ties to Whistler and the Sea-to-Sky corridor, is seeking court protection.

But the company’s current problems will not affect Whistler, says a local real estate agent.

"There will be no impact here whatsoever," said Drew Meredith, a realtor with the Whistler Real Estate Co.

Meredith has seen developers come and go: he has lived in Whistler for more than 25 years and is a former mayor.

According to the National Post , United Properties – which is blaming its difficulties on the B.C.’s "troubled economy" – is trying to complete a half-dozen projects, including one in Whistler.

But Meredith said the developer’s last dealings in Whistler was the 300-unit Delta Whistler Village Suites, located on Main Street.

"I think they still own space in there," Meredith told Pique Newsmagazine in an interview.

The local realtor said the company was also involved in two other Whistler properties, Powderwood in Nordic Estates and Forest Trails in the Blackcomb Benchlands.

"They’re a big company and a good developer," said Meredith. "But they’re probably having a bit more of a struggle down at Furry Creek."

One of United Properties’ high-profile projects is the Oliver’s Landing residential development in that fledgling Sea-to-Sky community. The company also owns Sunset Highlands north of Horseshoe Bay.

United Properties filed for court protection from creditors last week and is trying to deal with a $85-million debt, $72-million of which is owed to secured creditors.

Approximately 600 unsecured creditors are owed more than $12-million.

The company has assets of $99-milion and is attempting, like Locke’s ski-resort empire, to restructure its finances. B.C. Supreme Court granted United Properties protection until Aug. 16.

"My situation is a reflection of the economy," said United Properties president Victor Sutton.

Sutton said his 26-year-old company has been hurt by unforeseen development costs and construction overruns.

Pundits say United Properties is a "blue chip" company and is among B.C.’s top six developers.

According to Meredith, Whistler-Blackcomb owner Intrawest is the only major real estate developer still active in town.

"It’s impossible for other developers to do business here," Meredith said. "All the remaining bed-units belong to Intrawest."

Inrtawest was ranked as the province’s No. 1 real estate company by BC Business magazine based on revenues of more than $1-billion in the 2000 fiscal year.

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