London Drugs faces opposition 

But the company and its landlord say they’re willing to wait

London Drugs and the company that could be it’s future landlord, Larco, have agreed on a deal that clears the way for a London Drugs store in Whistler Village.

The only obstacle still wedged between London Drugs and a grand opening is the "recreation" zoning on the Larco site that London Drugs must get changed to "commercial" zoning before the store can open.

But several residents and now three councillors have indicated they are not in favour of changing the zoning.

Acting Mayor Ken Melamed, Councillor Gordon McKeever and Councillor Marianne Wade indicated that there are two issues regarding London Drugs: one, is the rezoning; the other is whether London Drugs is appropriate for the village core.

Melamed was most concerned with the rezoning because he believes Whistler needs more "family focused" recreational facilities.

"That space should be used for recreation and only that and London Drugs certainly doesn’t qualify under that," said Melamed.

"Given the inclement weather we’ve had over long periods of time this winter where people… were desperately looking for things to do in the village…. That to me has highlighted… the need for Larco to fulfil their commitment for family orientated indoor recreation."

McKeever and Wade were more concerned with the impact on the village core.

Without commenting specifically on London Drugs Wade said: "What I would say is that Whistler had a very clear vision with regards to the development of the core of the village so you wouldn’t get the same shopping experience you would get in any commercial centre."

McKeever said: "You can replicate experiences like Starbucks or McDonald’s 10 times over, but this will not make Whistler more unique. The more we look like a suburban shopping mall, the less reason there is to come here."

Larco controls the space now occupied by the Eddie Bauer and Guess stores, which is where London Drugs wants to be.

But London Drugs will also need the additional floor space located under the Eddie Bauer and Guess stores. This underground space was zoned for "recreational use" when it was built. Previously it was home to a bowling business.

Larco’s Director of Commercial property, Johnathan Lazar, said, "a need for indoor recreation has been brought up before."

"Unfortunately, it appears the need has not been endorsed by the general public," said Lazar.

"At one time there were 16 lanes of bowling in the premises, but that did not prove to be successful, as the operator went bankrupt after a couple of years.

"Council in 2002 required a component of the lower space to be indoor recreation as a condition of rezoning the premises for the movie theatre use. That requirement has been met with the Village 8 Cinemas Video Arcade located adjacent to the movie theatres."

Representatives from both Eddie Bauer and Guess have both denied that their companies might be forced out of Whistler.

London Drugs’s community relation’s manager Andrew Pottinger confirmed that London Drugs and Larco had agreed to an option on the space.

"I think it’s fair to say that London Drugs has an option on that lease and Eddie Bauer would move to one side and Guess would leave," said Pottinger.

"Most of the concern we’re hearing has really been from people who are frightened of London Drugs wherever it is.

"But London Drugs is not the size of Wal-Mart or Home Depot – it’s not a big box store – but it is larger than the stores you generally have in Whistler, so it’s understandable what the effect of this would be."

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