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Lil'wat looks to break ground in Function, but where's the traffic study?

Council briefs: Liquor policy updated for non-traditional businesses
TRAFFIC TROUBLES? The Lil'wat Nation is eyeing a spring groundbreaking for its development in Function Junction, but questions still remain around a traffic impact study connected to the project. Photo By Braden Dupuis

A year and a half after receiving a development permit from the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), a Lil'wat Nation development in Function Junction is looking to finally break ground this spring.

"We got conditional approval in October of 2017 and have just been working to remove the conditions," said Kerry Mehaffey, CEO of the Lil'wat Business Group.

"We did the initial site works and I think we're hoping we're relatively close to completing all the conditions, and we start servicing in the spring."

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, Mehaffey said.

As for the commercial side, it's too early to talk about specific tenants, Mehaffey said, though he noted the Nation has had "a lot of interest" in the space.

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 plans, presented to council in October 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—Mehaffey said the Lil'wat are still in discussions with the provincial Ministry of Transportation regarding the traffic plan, and couldn't provide specifics at this time.

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).

Asked for an update from its perspective on April 1, the RMOW said simply that it can confirm that work towards completing the conditions continues.


"Non-traditional" businesses hoping to serve liquor may soon be able to do so through the RMOW's business licence process.

Council adopted an amended liquor licensing policy at its March 26 meeting to accommodate the change.

"(The new policy states) that liquor service must be complimentary and subordinate to the primary business, liquor can only be served when the primary business is operating, and the hours of service of liquor must not extend beyond the hours of the primary business, but in all cases the liquor service hours could not extend beyond the period of 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.," said planner Frank Savage, in a presentation to council.

Under new provincial regulations introduced in 2017, hundreds of "non-traditional" Whistler businesses are now eligible to apply for a liquor licence, provided they don't operate out of a motor vehicle or cater to minors.

The RMOW, through its Liquor Licensing Advisory Committee (LLAC), initially explored using Temporary Use Permits (TUP) for interested businesses, but ultimately decided business licensing would be more appropriate as a regulatory framework.

Applications under the new policy will be considered by RMOW staff, the LLAC and by council, which can make recommendations about whether a licence should be approved, as well as attach conditions to the business license.

"So a non-traditional business applying for a liquor primary license, say a retail store or a hair salon, will go through the full liquor primary license application review process, the same as would a new pub or a lounge," Savage said.

So far there has been lukewarm interest in the idea (at least under the TUP framework)—just one business has expressed interest at municipal hall in the last 18 months, Savage said.

It was the last presentation to council for Savage, who is retiring after 14 years with the RMOW.

";He has been our go-to person for liquor licensing, as well as trail planning and cycling. He has seen a wholesale and complex change to provincial liquor policy in the past few years, and the substantial work associated with implementing those changes for our community has been impressive," said Mayor Jack Crompton.

"As you move on to retirement, thank you, Frank. You are a true professional, and you are a community builder. The work you've done in your volunteer time, and just being a part of this community, is important."