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Council gives third reading to Nita Lake Lodge agreement

Municipality gets closer to finalizing settlement agreement

Despite Nita Lake Lodge Corporations unclear financial situation, Whistler council gave third reading to their settlement agreement on Tuesday. 

"The banks are involved," Bill Barratt told Whistler's mayor and councillors during the public council meeting at MY Millennium Place Tuesday.

Through the settlement agreement with municipal hall, Nita Lake Lodge will give the municipality $950,000 instead of building the last 22 units of resident-restricted housing required under their initial agreement.

The 22 units of employee housing were originally promised to the municipality through a development strategy, which Whistler's council adopted in October 2003. Through the strategy, Nita Lake Lodge Corporation was required to build a total of 66 resident-restricted units, of which the company built 44 units in 2006.

This week, Whistler council got several steps closer to finalizing the settlement agreement, with the council members holding a public hearing and giving third reading to the settlement agreement during Tuesday evening's public meeting.

Garry Watson was the only person who spoke during the public hearing.

He congratulated both council and municipal hall for the deal they have managed to nail down with the Nita Lake Lodge developers.

"I was absolutely amazed that through this settlement, you were able to achieve all those things that are in the objectives and policies of resident restricted housing," said the man who also helped found Whistler in the 1960s. "You have got the monies in hand. You have the site secured. What really could be better?"

The municipality and Nita Lake Lodge Corporation have been at the negotiation table for almost six years, since the developers first received permission to build the 77-room hotel, train station, market housing and employee housing.

Within that time frame, however, the developers have also had to navigate a lawsuit, which they estimated cost them a total of $3 million in delays and legal fees.

A neighbour took the municipality to Supreme Court shortly after council first approved development of the hotel, claiming the bylaw was illegal. The neighbour won, and construction was temporarily stopped until the province overturned the Supreme Court's decision.

Also, the hotel changed management in March following strained relations with the owners.

Despite these struggles, Mayor Ken Melamed appeared confident following Tuesday's council meeting that the developers would hold up their end of the bargain.

"They have committed to pay us," said the mayor. "We have done that due diligence, and it is our expectation that it will be wrapped up that way."

Once the settlement is complete, the municipality will put all of the $950,000 into a fund to help the Whistler Housing Authority build rental accommodation in the athletes' village/Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood.