Nita Lake Lodge decision imminent 

After two years of massaging and negotiating a complex land deal in Creekside, council should be ready to seal the fate of the Nita Lake Lodge development at a special council meeting on Monday night.

If approved the development will bring a four-storey 80-room lodge and train station to the south shores of Nita Lake, 14 large single family homes off of Alta Lake Road and a number of community amenities like employee housing and 25 acres of protected wetlands.

It will effectively change the face of Creekside.

It could also bring a legal challenge.

"We do feel strongly that the municipality has a lot to answer for in this deal," said Keith Lambert, who owns a home on the north side of Nita Lake directly opposite the lodge.

Lambert was one of about 20 people who spoke against the current proposal at a second public hearing on Wednesday night.

He said he has legal advice that the Nita Lake bylaws could be overturned in a court.

After the hearing Lambert would not comment on his course of action should the project be approved.

It was the threat of legal action from Lambert about two months ago, which prompted the municipality to rewrite the bylaws just as council was on the verge of approving the project.

Citing B.C. case law on his side, Lambert said any benefits in a land deal must be directly related to the development.

No writ was ever filed but with this legal threat, the municipality reworked the Nita Lake Lodge bylaws, removing a $1 million donation to health care and adding more employee housing.

This forced a second public hearing.

Though it was Lambert’s actions that brought about the second public hearing, Acting Mayor Nick Davies asked the people who filled Millennium Place not to personalize the discussion on the development.

"It’s not a personal issue," agreed Lambert after the hearing.

Council heard from roughly 60 people at the hearing and their praise of the project and their concerns were an echo of the sentiments expressed at the first public hearing at the end of April.

About 40 people spoke in favour, although some were consultants for the project.

One of the biggest selling points of this development is the extensive employee housing, which will be added to the employee housing pool. Currently people on the Whistler Housing Authority housing list can wait more than two years until a restricted home becomes available.

"I’m a beneficiary of employee housing,’ said Scott Patterson, a Whistler-Blackcomb liftie who has lived in Whistler for the past 10 years.

"And that’s why I lend support."

Others praised the multi-million dollar train station component of the project.

"The jewel is to have a modern train station," said Victor Burt, general manager of the Westin Resort and Spa.

The concept of the train station is to bring cruise ship passengers to Whistler in the shoulder seasons, generating business within the resort.

Concerns about the project ranged from losing waterfront green space to a hotel, and the size and massing of the project which will sit on a three-acre parcel of land at the end of Lake Placid Road.

Natasha Magee pleaded with council to stop Whistler from becoming a "concrete jungle."

"As our community continues to develop and our population grows... so must our green public park places increase (with) the demand," she said passionately.

"Once it is paved over it will be lost forever.

"Please leave a green legacy within this development."

Magee was not alone in appealing to council to add more waterfront green space to the development.

Anne Popma also asked council to compromise to include a little more public access at the waterfront in front of the hotel for everyone in Whistler to enjoy.

Public waterfront spaces are a diminishing resource in Whistler, said Popma adding: "Myrtle Philip would be horrified."

Lambert also questioned the viability of a train station in Whistler when there is currently no train service to Whistler.

Council listened to both sides of the project for three and a half hours.

Now all that remains is a decision.

Lambert like others at the meeting suggested a compromise of reducing the size and the height of the lodge.

"I think everything was said that needed to be said," commented Lambert after the pubic hearing.

To date council has supported the development with only Councillor Ken Melamed expressing a strong opposition. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly and Councillor Gordon McKeever cannot take part in the discussion due to conflicts of interest.

There will be a special council meeting on Monday July 28 at 6:30 p.m. to consider third reading for the Nita Lake Lodge development. Council cannot hear any representations from the public about the development at this meeting.

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