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Lil'wat Function development delayed to 2020

First approved in 2017, details remain scarce about what's behind the delay
A Lil'wat Nation development in Function Junction has seen significant delays, but all parties involved are staying quiet about what's behind them. Photo by Braden Dupuis

While the sign posted on a Lil'wat Nation development in Function Junction reading "Occupancy Spring 2019" was recently changed to read "Occupancy Fall 2020," the message about what's behind the delay remains the same from all parties involved: no comment.

"We received our conditional Development Permit in October 2017. There [were] quite a few conditions and we have been working through them over the past two years. We are involved in on-going discussions regarding several of the items and will not comment at this point," said Lil'wat Business Group CEO Kerry Mehaffey, in an email.

Both the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure also declined to comment about the delay, deferring instead to the Lil'wat Business Group.

A realtor listed on the development's sign did not return a call from Pique.

The lands are owned by the Lil'wat Nation through the Legacy Land Agreement of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Plans for the 2.15-hectare site include a gas station and three mixed-use buildings containing office, commercial and residential space (which has been increased from 18 to 48 units since 2017).

The residential units will be 100-per-cent rental and managed by a third-party property management company.

The conditions required for approval include planning for localized improvements along the frontage of Alpha Lake Road and consideration for intersection improvements at Highway 99.

The original concept, presented to council in Oct. 2017, showed plans for big revisions to Alpha Lake Road near Highway 99, including realigning Lynham Road to create a new four-way intersection, widening Alpha Lake Road to include a dedicated left-turn lane and a second eastbound through-lane towards the highway, and adding a second northbound through-lane and eastbound turn-lane at the Highway 99 and Alpha Lake Road intersection.

It's unclear if the traffic improvement plans have changed since first introduced in 2017—earlier this year, Mehaffey said the Lil'wat were still in discussions with the provincial Ministry of Transportation regarding the traffic plan, and couldn't provide specifics.

Nor could the RMOW.

When Pique requested a copy of the project's traffic impact study through an RMOW Freedom of Information request in April 2018, the request was denied under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (which allows a public body to refuse information requests that might reveal sensitive information about or related to a third party—the third party in this case, the Lil'wat Nation, requested the records be kept confidential).

While Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy doesn't have the hard facts behind the delay, what he's heard through conversations is that it is related to the traffic improvements.

"My understanding is it's around traffic management—that whole intersection area is problematic," Sturdy said.

"I have talked to a few people about what's going on and it sounds like it's just going around in circles, to some degree, between the municipality, the developer and highways, around how best to manage this egress/ingress."

The area in question contains an intersection and railroad tracks in close proximity, all just a few dozen metres from the highway.

"I think it's just a matter of coming to a resolution on what this is going to look like, and you don't want to mess it up, because it is complicated," Sturdy said.

"But also I don't think it's fair to entirely put the whole obligation on the developer, either. They may be the trigger, to some degree, but that doesn't mean that they're the source of all the problems."