Plans to change the six-acre site of Whistlers Boot Pub and Shoestring Lodge into 36 townhomes and an employee housing apartment complex have been sent back to the drawing board.
At Mondays council meeting, council expressed their dislike for the proposed development project as it stands and asked staff to renegotiate with the developer before taking the plans to the public for feedback.
"Its not about saying no," said Mayor Hugh OReilly after listening to a variety of concerns raised by his council.
"Its about finding a way to say yes."
Vancouver-based developers Cressey, the same company that built the Westin Resort & Spa, proposed a small subdivision on the site, currently home to the Shoestring Lodge, The Boot Pub and Gaitors restaurant, as well as a cold beer and wine store.
Cresseys plans for the site included a series of duplexes and four-plexes totalling 36 market townhomes.
A large employee housing apartment complex, similar to the Beaver Flats building in Creekside, was planned for the southwest corner of the site, abutting the highway.
A third commercial building was to go at the entrance of the subdivision with a cold beer and wine store, a neighbourhood pub, 4,000 square feet of office/commercial space and additional units of employee housing.
Cressey Development Manager David Evans felt positive about councils discussion even though council voted against taking the project to a public open house.
"Weve been trying to get to this point for a while," said Evans.
"I think, granted some of the feedback wasnt positive, I think in light of all that, its more positive that council has now pretty much given staff the go ahead to really start working with us."
Councils debate, while touching on many concerns about the project, focused briefly on the loss of the Shoestring Lodge.
The 46-room lodge, which has provided guests on a shoestring budget a place to lay their heads for the past 35 years, is not a part of the new plans.
"We are seeing the bottom end of the market fall out," cautioned Councillor Ken Melamed, adding that Whistler is seeing a rapid disappearance of affordable accommodation.
He said if Whistlers idea of the bottom end is $150 per night, then the resort has not achieved its affordability goals.
But Councillor Gordon McKeever disagreed, saying that the market has a way of correcting itself to meet all spectrums of the economy. If one property such as the Shoestring Lodge disappears, another one will resurface to fill the niche in the community.
Another concern at the council table was the provision of employee housing.
Cresseys proposal puts 224 employee beds in 56 apartment-style housing units on the site. This will more than satisfy Cresseys long outstanding obligation to build 126 employee beds from their Westin development. While Melamed said he didnt want to appear to be throwing hurdles in the way to meet this requirement by raising concerns about the project, he pointed out that it is the developers obligation to build that housing.
"It shouldnt be us thats bending over backwards to make that happen," said Melamed.
Councillor Marianne Wade also questioned the apartment-style employee housing when all of the current signs point to a major need for long-term ownership opportunities in the resort.
With the development of the 36 townhomes Cressey would be utilizing 152 market bed units on the site out of a total 206 market bed units.
The issue of the 54 residual or so-called "floating" bed units is still not resolved.
Some councillors also balked at this.
"We knew coming in that the idea of floating bed units isnt really satisfactory any more," said Evans.
" Weve kind of come up with a mechanism to address that, hopefully. Were trying the find a site right now."
The issue of the floating bed units will be part of the council report that deals with the Shoestring application.
The six-acre site at the corner of Highway 99 and Nancy Greene Drive stretches from the highway to the banks of Fitzsimmons Creek and is located in the flood plain of that creek.
Developers will have to make some fundamental changes to the land to protect the site from flooding.
The grades on the six acres must be raised slightly so that the building sites are above flood levels. In addition, the existing dyke on the east side of Fitzsimmons Creek must be raised to stop the creek "over-topping" into the White Gold neighbourhood.
Evans said he has been in touch with the homeowners backing onto Fitzsimmons Creek who may see the potential impact of the raised dyke.
Before any changes can be made to the banks of the creek, the municipality must first get approval from the Inspector of Dykes. That approval is pending.
"We knew coming forward that there were a lot of issues involved," said Evans.
"I think overall its a positive response just to get the go ahead to move forward and start working more in depth with staff."