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New Callaghan adventure lodge under fire

Proposal calls into question long term planning for the valley

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Calling it “an assault on our community,” Whistler council unanimously rejected an application for a large five star adventure lodge in the Callaghan Valley.

“If this thing goes ahead there’s a precedent set up there in the Callaghan that the Callaghan is wide open for business,” said Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, who has long had the future of that valley on his mind.

“We have a responsibility to defend the business people, the investors and everybody in our own community. And this is an assault on our community.”

But the lodge proponent, Shawn Wilson, owner of Blackcomb Snowmobile and Whistler ATV, vowed to keep moving forward despite Whistler council’s opposition.

His 55,000 square foot lodge proposal (roughly twice the size of the IGA Marketplace) lies just outside Whistler’s boundaries and, as such, council does not have ultimate authority over approval of the development. That rests with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

“It’s definitely not going to stop me,” said Wilson, who was disappointed upon learning of council’s position Tuesday morning. “I’m still going to keep moving forward with it.

“It’s not going to be a competing thing against Whistler. It’s just going to be an enhancement of the valley.”

Council had a different opinion, particularly in light of an earlier presentation at Monday’s council meeting from Tourism Whistler President Barrett Fisher.

In an update about the organization Fisher told council that Whistler’s accommodation has a year-round occupancy rate of 54 per cent — a rate she said is not sustainable.

Zeidler seized on that statistic.

“We have so many challenges in this community,” he said.

“Like we need a bunch more accommodation. Like we need more retail. I don’t think so.”

Council was unanimous in its decision to support staff in writing a letter to the Adventure Tourism Branch of the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts (MOTSA) in opposition to the referral.

Its position is similar to that of other fringe development proposals in recent years, most notably the Wedge housing development on the northern boundary.

“I think the gold rush to our boundaries continues at pace,” said Councillor Ralph Forsyth.

It’s one of the reasons Whistler negotiated, through the Olympics, to have its municipal boundary expanded. The province has yet to officially approve that expansion but the southern expansion does not advance as far into the Callaghan as originally proposed.

“I think this is a pretty clear example for the rationale Whistler had in asking for a larger area,” said Mayor Ken Melamed at Monday’s meeting.

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