RMOW defends actions before the Supreme Court 

Lawyers were defending the Resort Municipality of Whistler in Supreme Court this week over allegations it acted illegally during the Nita Lake Lodge process.

The three-day hearing ended on Wednesday and a decision has yet to be handed down by Madame Justice Mary Humphries.

The lawsuit was brought against the RMOW last October after council approved the development of an 80-room boutique lodge on the shores of Nita Lake.

Nearby homeowners Keith and Rosalyn Lambert filed the lawsuit, which claimed the municipality was acting unlawfully when it granted the zoning for the hotel. They maintain the RMOW sold the zoning in exchange for certain amenities.

Lambert would not comment on the matter this week.

Nita Lake Lodge developer John Haibeck however was confident of an outcome in his favour after his lawyer presented arguments before the judge on Monday.

"I think it went very well from our lawyer’s standpoint," he said on Monday night.

"He certainly had an awful lot of case law substantiating our position."

Originally the lawsuit was just against the RMOW. The developers later asked to be included as co-defendants in the case.

"We did it basically because there was a side to this that is more than just about bylaws," said Haibeck.

"It’s about financial risk. There would be a lot of money at stake.

"If (Lambert) were successful in stopping the project... it would cost us dearly. So we just don’t want to run that risk. We wanted to have our lawyers there as well, backing up the municipality’s lawyers like a double team kind of thing."

Despite the threat of a lawsuit hanging over the development since it was approved, work has continued on the project throughout the winter months.

In addition to the upscale lodge, the Nita Lake Lodge development package also includes a brand-new passenger train station in Creekside as well as 14 large single family homes in the area and resident housing.

In addition to developing the project, Haibeck is also the chief executive officer of Whistler Railtours, a new rail company that is currently bidding on the right to run a passenger rail service from Vancouver to Whistler and into northern B.C.

The deadline for submission of proposals for the passenger rail service is on Monday, Feb. 16.

Haibeck said he couldn’t speak freely about the RFP process because of confidentiality agreements.

"What I can say about that is that there were many bidders, which is good," he said, adding that those bidders came from all over the world.

Haibeck said there were many detractors in Whistler who did not believe passenger rail worked in the corridor because it didn’t work for B.C. Rail.

The number of bidders shows that he was on the right track with his concept of passenger rail to Whistler. It just needs to be done differently than B.C. Rail he said.

"It takes new equipment. It takes new facilities and it takes good scheduling, reliability and good marketing," he said.

"The long and the short of it is whoever wins it’s going to be good for Whistler and I’m proud that I initiated the action which led to significant interest (in passenger rail.)"

Haibeck is also open to the possibility of the government awarding the contract to more than one bidder.

"Who knows? Maybe there’s more than one service and we welcome that too," he said.

"That’s good because then people have got choices."

He is expecting a decision on who will be awarded the passenger rail contract by the end of April. In the meantime he is expecting a judgment on the lawsuit to be handed down within a month.


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