Nita Lake Lodge proposal goes to public hearing Monday 

The Whistler community will get a chance to express their support or concerns about Whistler’s latest big development project at a public hearing on Monday night.

The details of the Nita Lake Lodge development were unveiled to council at a meeting in early April.

Council at that time voted 4-1 to move the development to the next stage, which is the public hearing. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly and Councillor Gordon McKeever were in conflict and could not vote on the project.

Councillor Ken Melamed was the only member of council to vote against the project.

The multi-faceted development includes many components ranging from a boutique lodge to preserving a large tract of sensitive wetlands.

The heart of the project is centred in Creekside on the shores of Nita Lake.

There, at the west end of Lake Placid Road on a three acre parcel of land, the developers envision an 80-room upscale lodge, complete with a general store, spa services and a holistic mind and body rejuvenation centre.

There will be a multi-million dollar train station adjoining the lodge.

BC Rail removed the old train station last year when they abandoned the passenger rail business.

The new train station is a must if the passenger rail service ever gets revived on the Vancouver to Whistler route.

Currently the backers of the Nita Lake Lodge Corporation are also involved in a project called Whistler Rail Tours, aimed at bringing the cruise ship market to Whistler on a new passenger rail service.

The new passenger train station will have a ticketing area, baggage handling, waiting lounge and bus transfer area.

Across the train tracks, on a 23-acre forested site, the developers have planned to build 14 single-family homes nestled among the trees. The homes will be an average size of 3,500 square feet.

This 23-acre plot of land will also have 40 townhouse-style employee housing units.

One of the obstacles to the development project is that there are only six bed units on each of the Nita Lake sites. That’s enough for one single family home per site, so more bed units had to be acquired.

Bed units were originally created to monitor development in the resort.

Whistler has a development cap based on these bed units. Without bed units, there can be no residential or commercial development.

Whistler is already beyond its development cap. But there are still bed units on various pieces of land in the community, which have not been utilized for development.

For example, there are 242 bed units on the Alpha Creek wetlands. These are 27 acres of environmentally-sensitive land spanning northwest of Function Junction. The lands, more commonly known as part of the Zen lands, are currently zoned for a campground.

The Nita Lake Lodge developers propose to transfer the bed units from the wetlands to the Creekside sites. In return they will preserve 25-aces of the wetlands, providing an area for passive recreation and nature conservation where no buildings are allowed.

The remaining two-acres of the site, bordering Alta Lake Road, are not as sensitive. As such, the developers propose to build apartment style employee housing with 22 units there.

The employee housing component of this project totals 249 employee beds. This is seven times the amount required for the project. The units will be a mixture of both rental and employee-owned residences, designed in conjunction with the Whistler Housing Authority. Some of the units will be family oriented while others will be for seasonal workers.

There are more beneficial side effects of the project, chief among them more than half a million dollars for a new x-ray machine at the Whistler Health Care Centre. Another half million-dollar donation will go to the Community Foundation of Whistler to set up a new community health endowment fund.

The project as it stands has changed considerably over the past two years in response to extensive public consultation with various community members and groups.

The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Westin Resort & Spa in the Emerald Ballroom on Monday, April 28.

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