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Nita Lake Lodge set for a strong winter season

Lodge is in good financial standing, says COO

Despite confusion at last week's council meeting, the chief operating officer of Nita Lake Lodge Corporation clarified the hotel is in good financial standing.

Nita Lake Lodge was busy with functions and weddings this summer, said Charlene Turner, and the hotel is also already fully booked out for the Olympic period.

Turner said the corporation is entering into a settlement agreement with the municipality because the hotel has not been able to secure the financing needed to construct the 22 outstanding units of employee housing. Nita Lake Lodge Corp. is contributing $950,000 cash to the municipality's employee housing fund in the settlement.

The municipality and the corporation have been negotiating the arrangement for months, she said.

"We approached the municipality about how we could meet the needs of both sides, knowing we weren't able to secure the financing to actually do the construction but acknowledging that there is a certain amount we could do and we are prepared to turn the land over to the municipality," Turner said this week from within the boutique hotel located between Nita Lake and Alpha Lake in Creekside.

"The cash payment into the employee housing fund I think was something that was able to work for both sides, and we are hoping that will continue to go through."

Turner also clarified the land involved in the settlement - located at 1451 Alta Lake Road - is assessed for property taxes at $551,000. During last week's public council meeting, municipal staff members Bill Barratt and Bill Brown estimated the property was worth approximately $60,000 because of the resident restriction on it.

The Nita Lake Lodge first opened its doors in January 2008 and Turner said the corporation has been happy with their business levels over the past year and a half.

"Obviously you can be busier - with the global economy right now everybody is slower than they want to be - but we are very happy with the number of weddings and functions that are happening here," said Turner.

For example, she said, the hotel has hosted three weddings in the past four weeks, including a wedding that was held on the Nita Lake dock.

The Jordan's Crossing restaurant is also open for both breakfast and dinner.

And Turner added the Loka Wellness and Yoga centre will be opening with full spa, gym, yoga and Pilates facilities at the end of September. The centre will be run by Mitch and Tina Powis, and Turner said more details will be released about the addition in the upcoming weeks.

Nita Lake Lodge Corporation's management changed this spring when the previous operators, Boutique Hotels and Resorts of British Columbia (BHRBC), stepped down.

In a press release BHRBC's president Mike Duggan said the reason was because of "the continued deterioration of the relationship between ourselves, the owner and their self-appointed receiver has led us to believe this decision is in the best interests of BHRBC at this time."

Turner said she took issue with Duggan's statement.

"There is no reason for all the rumours out there," Turner reiterated. "I'm not going to say that it didn't have its challenges through construction, and it has, but we are working very closely with the banks, and I don't see there is any reason for it not to be thriving well into the future."

She is disappointed by the "swirling of rumours that keep popping up in the community when there really isn't any reason.

"That is the thing that is the most disheartening for us when there are so many good and positive things happening at Nita Lake Lodge."

The hotel's relationship with suppliers has improved since Integrated Hospitality Management took over management operations in April this year, she added.

"A lot of work has been done by our new management team to rebuild the relationship with suppliers and the community," said Turner. "We have a new general manager and he will be looking to forge even greater relationships with people in the community.

"We want to be a big part of the Whistler community. We haven't had the opportunity yet to do that, but we are looking forward to building that."

Last week, Whistler council gave third reading to the agreement which would see Nita Lake Lodge Corporation give the municipality $950,000 and a 0.717 hectare plot of land in lieu of building the last 22 units of resident restricted housing, a requirement under the initial development agreement.

Under that original agreement, the corporation was required to build a total of 66 resident-restricted units. The company built 44 units in 2006.

Once the settlement is finalized, the municipality plans to deposit the $950,000 into a "Cheakamus Crossing Affordable Employee Housing Reserve Fund" to fund the Whistler Housing Authority's building in the athletes' village/Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood.

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, who asked municipal staff last week during the public meeting about the hotel's financial status, added this week that council is aware Nita Lake is making "every effort to work through some challenging financial problems."

"It is my view that council has an obligation to let the community know why we make serious decisions - in this case, releasing Nita Lake Lodge from the remainder of the resident housing obligations and taking the cash and property instead - and that is why I asked that question," he said.