Residential developments on the horizon 

Small pockets of employee housing part of London, Mt. Whistler lodges

Two longstanding residential developments on the shores of some prime lakeside property are back on the agenda at municipal hall.

The Mt. Whistler Lodge proposal, which will bring 30 units of market housing to the shores of Alta Lake near Lakeside Park, and the former London Mountain Lodge proposal on the shores of Nita Lake, are back on the table after a few years on the backburner.

Council raised red flags at the latter development at Monday’s council meeting because the proposal has changed substantially from its first incarnation four years ago.

"I’m quite concerned at the turn this is taking," said Councillor Ken Melamed. "This seems much more intensive on the site."

Initially the London Mountain Lodge proposal envisioned 25 guest cabins tucked into the forested west shores of Nita Lake while a main lodge would have housed seven guest suites, a restaurant and spa. What made the development unique was a proposed Artist in Residence program, which would see the existing Hillman House cabin and barn transformed into a fulltime facility for the Whistler Community Arts Council – a place where artists could meet and develop their talents.

The land has since changed owners. The new owners do not think the development as originally proposed would be economically viable.

Instead, they are proposing a new configuration on the land, which would use the same number of bed units but look much different. Instead of 25 small cabins, they would like to build seven large single family homes, each more than 300 square metres (or more than 3,000 square feet). The homes would be zoned tourist accommodation.

The proponents pledged to keep the artist program but the size of the studio space would be reduced by half.

The amount of employee housing on the other hand would be increased to nine apartments in three townhouse buildings and additional suites on two other buildings on the site.

But the changes were not palatable to the four councillors taking part in the discussion. (Mayor Hugh O’Reilly and Councillor Caroline Lamont could not be a part of this discussion due to conflicts of interest and Councillor Kristi Wells was absent.)

"It really doesn’t have the character it used to have," said Councillor Gordon McKeever.

"It’s going to have a big effect on a really small body of water."

Since the development first came to the table in 2000, the area around Nita Lake has changed significantly. With the approval of the Nita Lake Lodge development last year, Whistler’s smallest lake will soon have a boutique lodge on its south shores, 14 single family homes on the southwest corner plus the London Mountain Lodge proposal.

Council voted to allow staff to continue to have discussions with the developer about development possibilities but in the context of all the concerns that were raised at the council table.

The other residential development had fewer concerns.

The Mt. Whistler Lodge proposal will see 22 single family homes in the parcel of land south of Lakeside Park on the east shores of Alta Lake. Two townhouse buildings will have eight more multi-family units.

This proposal was almost approved two years ago but was delayed due to internal shareholder issues. Those have since been resolved.

Under the proposal the developers will build 11 employee units – four units will be in a stand-alone building on the site while seven units will be in auxiliary suites within the single family homes.

Melamed expressed concerns that the municipality would be able to ensure the employee suites would be in the rental pool and used to house employees.

Even though there are registered covenants on mandatory suites, there have been problems in the past around enforcing those covenants. Mandatory suites in some large single family homes have been converted to media rooms, or extra family rooms in the past.

Municipal lawyers have reviewed the wording of the covenants.

"It’s still not iron clad," worried Melamed.

Staff will be bringing a full report to council about the development in the coming weeks. In the meantime, council gave them the green light to continue working on the development as proposed two years ago.

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