Discussions fail to reach compromise, lawsuit hangs over RMOW
By Alison Taylor and Clare Ogilvie
Developers of the Nita Lake Lodge project and its main opponents, Keith and Rosalyn Lambert, have been in discussions, trying to reach a compromise before the matter goes before the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
They have yet to come to an agreement.
In the meantime the Resort Municipality of Whistler has filed a statement in court recognizing the impending lawsuit filed by the Lamberts.
The Lamberts own a multi-million home, which overlooks the proposed hotel and train station development. The couple filed a writ in the Supreme Court of British Columbia two weeks ago.
In that writ the Lamberts claimed the municipality was acting unlawfully when it granted zoning for the Creekside development. They maintain the municipality sold the zoning in exchange for amenities.
Recent discussions between Lambert and the developers, Nita Lake Lodge Corporation, centre around the size and scale of the lodge. Lambert would like the four-storey lodge cut back to one or two storeys. He would also prefer to have the train station removed from the development.
"We are amenable to talking about all the options," he said this week.
"One to two stories would solve the problem and so the ball is in the developers court."
David Ehrhardt, one of the principals in the Nita Lake Lodge Corporation, said anything is possible. But if the development were to change dramatically, like losing two storeys, it would have to go through the zoning process again.
"Im not too optimistic that that would make any sense," he said.
"Im not sure that anyone in the community or us have the stomach to go through this process again for the third time."
"Were moving along on the basis of what we have at this point in time."
The Nita Lake Lodge Corporation won final development approval for their project from Whistler council on Oct. 6, after more than two years of planning.
The deal includes a 78-room, four-storey boutique lodge on the south shores of Nita Lake. Attached to the lodge is a brand new train station which developers hope will revitalize passenger train travel in the Sea to Sky corridor.
The Lamberts live on the north side of the small lake in the Chateau du Lac. They bought the home for roughly $10 million in 2002. The hotel development will take up a good portion of their view across the lake.
Lambert said he has no idea how the Nita Lake Lodge development might affect the value of his home. He said it isnt for sale anyway because he bought it as a home for his family when theyre in Whistler.
Originally the developers proposed to donate 25 acres of sensitive wetlands to the municipality, along with a sizable chunk of employee housing and a $1 million donation to health care services in Whistler.
Lambert challenged the deal earlier this summer and the municipality was forced to rewrite the bylaws, ultimately dropping the donation to health care.
But the wetlands and employee housing remain in place.
The Supreme Court of Canada recognizes that selling zoning is against the law. Yet there are ways for municipalities to rezone land in exchange for certain amenities under a provision in the Local Government Act.
If Lamberts claim is upheld in court Ehrhardt said the consequences of this lawsuit could be far-reaching throughout the province.
"(Speaking) as a lay person, my understanding of... the claim is the municipality is selling zoning," he said.
"And so that would mean that if that premise is correct... then anything (amenities) that comes to a municipality or to a community out of the... rezoning process, would be inappropriate and improper. And so that would basically call into question the way the municipalities have been operating and continue to operate under the Local Government Act."
In the meantime Ehrhardt said they are hoping to start construction as soon as possible.
"As you can imagine theres a mountain of documents," he said.
"Its a very complex zoning so consequently... theres a whole series of documents that need to be dealt with. We were working on those to try and get them in place but it is taking a bit of time."
Though they are paying for the cost of the lawsuit alone, Lambert said he has roughly 100 letters from people who support him and most of them are also against the height of the lodge.
On the other hand the developers say a majority in the community spoke out in favour of the development at the public hearings.