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Creekside landscaping awaiting realignment of creek

Soil decontamination efforts continue

Intrawest’s Franz’s Trail development may look a little unfinished right now but they say some things are just beyond their control.

"We’re doing as much as we can but we’re in a holding pattern," said John Morley, director of land development with Intrawest Placemaking, formerly the Resort Development Group.

Intrawest cannot complete its landscaping plans for the Creekside area because Whistler Creek is still flowing beside Highway 99, right in the middle of their landscaping plans.

The company had hoped to relocate the creek by now to the manmade channel under the new Highway 99 overpass at London Lane, but an old gasoline leak in that area has yet to be totally cleaned up.

The Petro-Canada leak, discovered a few years ago, has left a hydrocarbon "plume" of contaminated soil and ground water which extends southwest from the service station, beneath London Lane, Highway 99 and to the edge of the Whistler Creek Lodge property.

Currently environment officials and interested parties are involved in remediation efforts.

"I know they’re working on it," said Morley.

"I know they did some more drilling in the last couple of months but I’m not sure exactly where they are."

Intrawest and the municipality had hoped to move the channel this month, during the two-week fisheries window in August, but approval from the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection is still pending.

"We’re frustrated but we understand that you just can’t snap your fingers and clean up these sites," said Morley.

"We have been finishing off as much landscaping as we can along the roadside edges."

At Monday’s council meeting councillors also expressed their concerns about the site.

"Right now it looks like Fort Creekside," said Councillor Gordon McKeever bluntly.

They asked staff how long it would take to get the landscaping done but were told that the remediation is beyond both Intrawest’s and municipality’s control.

All they know is that the creek can only be moved during the August fisheries window and it will definitely not be moving this year.

Municipal Planning Analyst Chris Bishop said both sides were working hard to come up with something that is more aesthetically pleasing than the concrete structure currently facing the highway.

"It’s a problem that we mutually want to solve," he said.

One of the suggestions at the meeting was to hang large photos, just like the work that’s hanging from the Crystal Lodge scaffolding, as a way of masking the site.

Morley said once the creek is moved, Intrawest will finish its landscaping and the Valley Trail, which will run parallel to the highway on its east side.

"The edge that faces the highway will be backfilled right up to the top and landscaped," he reassured.

"You won’t see any concrete walls like you do now."

Council also approved a development permit on Monday night which increased the size of the proposed Gateway Building at Franz’s Trail from 3,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet. The additional square footage will be found in a mezzanine level.

McKeever commented that the proposed Gateway building, which will sit at the northeast corner of Highway 99 and Lake Placid Road, looks like a 5,000 square foot home. He said, tongue in cheek, that that design was somewhat fitting as a welcome to Whistler.

Intrawest asked for the additional square footage because they had trouble finding a tenant for the smaller restaurant.

They have since confirmed that Black Forest Restaurant will be taking over as the new tenant.

It will be a steak and schnitzel house.

These tenants used to be in the Crystal Lodge 14 years ago and are now coming back to Whistler.