Province trumps B.C. Supreme Court over Nita Lake development 

Keith Lambert calls the government’s interference a ‘sinister’ move

For more than two years the Nita Lake Lodge development has been in limbo.

This week relieved developers are counting down the days until they can start construction once again and finally complete their controversial project on the south shore of Nita Lake.

On the other side of the world, Australian Keith Lambert is disappointed and somewhat bewildered that the province stepped in to approve the resort development in Whistler, despite a B.C. Supreme Court ruling which declared the municipality’s development bylaw illegal.

"We think it’s highly irregular ... for any western government to overturn its own Supreme Court," he said, speaking from his Melbourne home Tuesday.

Lambert, who owns a second home in the resort, successfully challenged the municipality of Whistler in the B.C. Supreme Court this year over the development bylaw for the hotel and train station project on Nita Lake.

The crux of his argument was that the municipality approved the development based on the extensive amenities package offered by the developer, including the protection of a large tract of sensitive wetlands and employee housing for local residents.

The judge agreed that the development bylaw, as written, was illegal, and stopped construction of the project.

But the court victory turned hollow last week after the province announced it was validating the development bylaw in the legislature.

"We always knew there was a risk we could win the battle and lose the war and that’s essentially what happened," said Lambert.

But he said his challenge was not in vain.

"I think we pointed out that there was a problem. I think the courts have vindicated us and said, ‘yes there was a problem’ and I think it’s been dealt with in a very sinister way by the municipality and indeed by the government."

The province moved ahead with the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Act legislation this week allowing the 80-room hotel and train station development to move ahead. As of press time on Wednesday, the Act was at the Committee stage and was expected to be passed by Thursday, just before the session of the legislature ends for the summer.

Whistler’s Acting Mayor Caroline Lamont explained that the municipality asked the province to intervene on their behalf to allow the development to go ahead.

"Council believes this project and the associated community benefits are important to the future of Whistler," said Lamont.

"We also believe that the project offers substantial benefits to the province. That is why we requested support from the provincial government for enabling and validating legislature."

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