Nita Lake Lodge proposal to go to public hearing 

A partial council moved forward with the newest land development project in Whistler at Monday’s council meeting, despite heavy opposition from one councillor.

Two other members of council, Mayor Hugh O’Reilly and Councillor Gordon McKeever, excused themselves from voting on the Nita Lake Lodge development project due to conflicts of interest, leaving five councillors to vote on the complex land deal, slated for Creekside.

"This is a significant change in the future of Whistler," said Councillor Ken Melamed, adding that this is a very contentious land deal.

"(The mayor’s and Councillor McKeever’s) input should be able to be received on this very important crucial issue."

The incomplete council vote was just one of a litany of Melamed’s opposing points after listening to a lengthy presentation by the Nita Lake Lodge Corporation in a packed council chambers.

"A project like this is complicated... We’ve done the best we can," said John Haibeck, president of the Nita Lake Lodge Corporation.

Haibeck has asked council to rezone three tracts of land for the Nita Lake Lodge project. They are in brief:

· a three acre parcel of land at the end of Lake Placid Road for an 80-room boutique lodge and a brand new multi-million dollar train station;

· an adjoining 23-acre piece of land on the west side of the railway tracks for 14 single family homes and 40 townhouse style employee housing units and;

· 27 acres of Alpha Creek wetland, located north-west of Function Junction. This site would then be subdivided into 25 acres for preservation and the two remaining acres, bordering Alta Lake Road, will have apartment style buildings with 22 employee housing units.

In order to build any of this however, the developer needs bed units, a growth management tool unique to Whistler.

Bed units were created in the past to ensure Whistler does not overdevelop.

"We have a cap placed on development to make sure we don’t grow," said local consultant Sharon Jensen, who is working on the Nita Lake Lodge development.

Jensen added that council’s policy in the past has been to consider applications over the bed unit cap if they provide worthwhile community benefits.

She reminded council of the Emerald Forest deal where the municipality created new market bed units above and beyond the cap for the first time in order to preserve the forest.

Haibeck however doesn’t need to go over Whistler’s development cap.

More than 20 years ago the Alpha Creek parcel of land was zoned for a campground development and as such, the land has 242 bed units.

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