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Legal position sought on Holborn development

Development deal from 1989 remains unfilled as new developer looks for rezoning

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A 15-year-old unfinished development deal has come back to haunt the municipality.

Council, after much debate on Monday night, will now seek legal advice to determine whether the new owners of the tennis club lands (known as the Hyatt site) are required to deliver an outstanding community amenity – namely a "world class" tennis facility, a five-star hotel and a large spa – which was negotiated in 1989.

"If the commitment does not exist then I feel I have personally failed the community by being part of the proposal call that allowed this development to take place as it was presented to Council in the ’80’s," wrote former Whistler Mayor Drew Meredith in a letter to council this week.

"…to hear now that those commitments are "vague" or not supported by the paperwork makes my stomach turn. Ask any planning staff at the time and they will tell you the commitment was crystal clear."

The 15-year-old commitment has been the subject of much debate ever since The Holborn Group bought the site, located north of the village between Lorimer Road and Nancy Greene Drive, in 2002.

Instead of building a 450-room hotel and spa, the developers have submitted a rezoning application to build roughly 150 market townhouses and condos instead. Though that rezoning application was submitted a year ago, the municipality has yet to get legal advice on their position.

They rezoning application also includes up to $7 million in upgrades to the existing tennis club and a seniors housing complex.

"I’m not asking for anything more," Holborn’s Jimmy Yap told council on Monday night. "I’m asking for downzoning."

While most on council agree that Whistler doesn’t need another hotel on the outskirts of the village, questions abound about whether there is still a legal obligation to provide the resort with the long-promised community amenity.

"I do see a certain unfulfilled economic obligation here," said Councillor Gordon McKeever at the council meeting.

That economic obligation stems from a 1989 proposal call to develop four season amenities in the resort, designed to diversify Whistler’s economic base.

Three projects were chosen in that proposal call of more than 20 which were submitted. They were the Nicklaus North golf club, the Chateau Whistler golf club and the tennis club.

The bed units to develop the real estate were based on those amenities.

Two projects became world class golf clubs. The other project, promised by original developer Park Georgia, is a far cry from what was anticipated 15 years ago.

"I took a lot of heat from certain people on that particular project because it was felt that there were better investments to be made…," said Meredith in an interview with Pique Newsmagazine. "And I was arguing at the time that we needed a diverse summer product in order to provide a true year-round resort… It should have happened a long time ago."

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