London Drugs still has its eye on Whistler.
It's been almost three years since the previous Whistler council voted against an application for rezoning that would have allowed London Drugs to open a 17,000 square foot store in the heart of Whistler Village, but according to company president Wynne Powell they have not conceded anything yet - despite opening a new store in Squamish on Nov. 17.
The new store is 30,000 square feet, far larger than the 17,000 square foot location planned for Whistler.
"The Squamish opportunity came up, and we've been discussing it even before Whistler," said Powell. "It got put together in short order because (Squamish) council wanted it to happen, they have welcomed us and embracedus, as the public has. For our customers in Whistler, until we can get our own store there, when they go back and forth for shopping we hope we can earn their business in the meantime."
The rezoning application was a contentious issue at the time. Supporters gathered more than 1,000 signatures in favour of the rezoning, and surveys for London Drugs found most residents to be in favour of the store, which promised prices on par with stores in the Lower Mainland.
However, council did not want to set a precedent that would allow for other big box retailers to move into the village. There were concerns that once the space - formerly occupied by sections of the Alpenrock club and restaurant - was rezoned for retail it could allow for an underground mall, or for other retailers to come in if London Drugs was forced to pull out.
There were also concerns that the store could negatively impact other local businesses, as well as the boutique-style shopping experience in the village.
As well, part of the space was zoned for indoor recreation, which has been identified as a priority to add to the mix of activities during periods of poor weather and for families.
However, since the application for rezoning failed the space has remained empty while the cost of living for residents has increased.
The Whistler 2020 working group on resident affordability has determined that wages are falling well below the cost of living for different economic groups. From 2006 to 2008 the number of seasonal residents making less than required to cover basic living costs - using data from the Canada-wide Market Basket Measure and Federation of Canadian Municipalities - has increased from 66 per cent to 85 per cent.
For residents, the number of residents living below the line has increased from 18 per cent to 31 per cent over the same period.