Nita Lake proposal goes to public meeting despite concerns 

Council voted 4-2 to move a multi-million dollar development proposal forward to the next step at Monday’s council meeting.

The development proposal, at the end of Lake Placid Road in Creekside will now be the subject of a public information meeting, despite many concerns councillors raised about the project.

"It’s getting harder and harder to say no," Coucillor Ken Melamed said with a wry smile.

While Melamed praised the presentation and consultation the developers have done, he asked fellow councillors: "Are we or are we not addicted to the dollars these developments are offering?"

His question came on the heels of a presentation by the Nita Lake Lodge Corporation that calls for a five-star hotel, a $7.5 million train station, and 11 estate homes on 23 acres of adjoining land near the shores of Nita Lake. The houses would average 3,500 square feet.

In return for the 214 necessary bed units to develop this area, the proponents presented two options to council, asking that they be allowed to take these options to the public for consultation.

Either they spend $5.2 million to buy sensitive wetlands north of Function Junction from John Zen, transfer the bed units from that land to the Creekside development and donate the wetlands back to the municipality to be preserved in perpetuity, or, they ask council to create new bed units in return for $6.5 million in community cash benefits, namely money for the library/museum capital campaign and to pay off the Millennium Place building debt.

With either option developer John Haibeck says there are enormous community benefits for Whistler and he was pleased with council’s vote to take it to the public for consultation.

"I’m very happy with council’s decision," he said the following day.

In addition to the community cash benefits or the preserved wetlands, Haibeck points to other benefits stemming from the Nita Lake development package.

Among other things there’s a revamped rail station that could boost tourism to Whistler, a $1 million donation toward surgical facilities at the Whistler Health Care Centre, and a 100-bed employee housing complex that would house almost twice the number of employees who will work in the final development.

But Melamed likened the proposed million dollar amenities to carrots dangling before the municipality.

"We’ve upped the ante every time," he said.

"I’m very worried what will be the next community amenity... that is hung out there."

Melamed’s concern with the Nita Lake proposal is that multi-million dollar developments with "trophy homes" and upscale hotels are increasing real estate values in Whistler and ultimately leading to the gentrification of the resort.

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