By Vivian Moreau
Anyone considering hunkering down in the soon-to-be demolished Shoestring Lodge should think twice.
Not only is the building without water, heat, or electricity, recent environmental assessments indicate asbestos residue.
Local RCMP and bylaw officers have confirmed that homeless have been “squatting” in the vacant Shoestring Lodge.
Dave Evans of Cressey Developments said assessments have confirmed the company’s initial suspicions: that because of the building’s age asbestos might be present. He added that the amount is very small and limited to drywall tape in the building’s former offices.
But Evans said there are more important reasons for people to stay out of the building slated for demolition within the next 10 days.
“Well it’s trespassing, so that’s the first reason and only reason they should not be squatting,” Evans said from Cressey’s Vancouver offices.
Whistler bylaw officer Nancy Johnston said the municipality’s building department contacted the developer after a complaint was received about individuals living in the lodge.
“After the Boot closed perhaps some people had in mind that they would be able to hang there until it got taken down,” Johnston said.
The Boot was the 40-year-old Shoestring Lodge’s iconic live music club, whose demise was confirmed last spring when Cressey Developments announced it would close and demolish the building to make way for construction of a new 70-unit housing development.
This fall Whistler’s fire department used the building for training and RCMP were considering it for the same purpose but decided not to because of the building’s condition.
“It’s just not a safe environment,” said Cpl. Jeff Levine. In addition to asbestos, Levine said the building is filthy, with doors kicked in, the building ransacked and human feces left behind.
Whistler youth services worker Greg McDonnell says the developers should have been more diligent about the building’s access. He also wonders why it was closed in the spring and then remained vacant this fall.
“It could have been used this fall, and if not then it should have been better boarded up,” McDonnell said.
Cressey’s Evans said obtaining building permits for the new project has taken longer than expected. He added that Whistler’s housing shortage isn’t about to be solved anytime soon.
“I appreciate that there is an ongoing issue,” Evans said. “…The community and municipality did a pretty good job looking forward to the always constant issue of affordable housing within Whistler. But it is an ongoing issue and will probably continue to be an ongoing issue, just as (housing) ownership within the community is an issue as well.”
Evans said the demolition details are being finalized with a local contractor and anticipates the building will be taken down by Dec. 10.