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Battle over front desk lands owners, property managers in court



The Aspens strife is a worst case scenario

There is war being waged at The Aspens, a 223-unit condo-hotel on the Benchlands, and it seems the only resolution will be to find justice in the B.C. Supreme Court.

"It is very upsetting," said Rob O’Neill, chairman and co-owner of the Whistler Lodging Company which represents some of the unit owners in the complex and mans the hotel front desk by the grace of an injunction. "Things are very hostile."

"We are in the process of getting our building back from the O’Neills," said The Aspens strata council chair, Craig Friday.

The battle on the Benchlands is centred around control of the hotel’s front desk. This kind of conflict is not entirely unique to The Aspens. Other condo hotel stratas and property managers in Whistler have fought over control of front desks in the past and they are doing it now. But, in a resort full of stratified hotels — some with up to 15 property managers — the situation at The Aspens is a worst case scenario.

It is symbolic of what can go wrong when relationships sour.

"I don’t perceive that this will go away without a lot of lawyers making a lot of money," said realtor and Whistler Real Estate owner, Pat Kelly.

Things at The Aspens came to a head last summer when the Whistler Lodging Company — then known as Powder Resort Properties — lost the front desk lease and filed a law suit against The Aspen owners; strata council chair Craig Friday; strata council vice-chair Andrew Brown; strata council member Martin Sprenkles, Whistler Retreats owner Leon Renfro and two of his companies, one of which was set up to manage suites in The Aspens.

This suit was filed against a backdrop of other litigation involving the strata council including Summit Strata Management, Intrawest and Pomar Building Projects.

And, things have become very bitter and very personal.

"The story is the multitude of litigation that is going on at the Aspens," said O’Neill. "The circumstances have turned out to be highly litigious. We believe that it is the strata chairman’s approach to resolving issues that has generated all these actions."

O’Neill said many owners are being taken hostage in the process.

Friday has a different perspective. "Basically O’Neill has sued the owners at The Aspens for possession of the front desk which is totally wrong," said Friday. "He doesn’t own the building. He is just the rental manager in the building. He has no rights to the front desk at all."