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Nita Lake Lodge trade-off brings more resident housing

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The Nita Lake Lodge developers have replaced the million-dollar donation to Whistler’s health care system with more resident housing for the community.

The change was part of the new bylaws, which were drafted after a community member challenged parts of the complex land deal.

Instead of the donation to health care there will now be four new townhouses added to a 40-unit resident housing complex on the west side of Nita Lake.

In addition, nine of those townhouses will be built by the developer and granted to the municipality with a value of just over $1 million.

Considering this trade-off, council moved forward with the project once again on Monday night.

The Nita Lake Lodge development is made up of a four-storey 80-room boutique lodge, a multi-million dollar train station and 14 single family homes in the Creekside area.

The developers proposed to donate $1 million to health care because the original plans included a surgical centre at the site. The centre was later dropped from the project.

There were also many other community amenities included in the deal, chief among them a gift of 25 acres of sensitive wetlands to be preserved in trust and more than 200 employee bed units to go into the resident housing pool.

Just as the project was in the final approval stages in May, a neighbour challenged parts of the deal, calling into question the list of extensive amenities.

Keith Lambert, who also lives on the shores of Nita Lake, specifically disputed the donation to health care because it was entirely unrelated to the rezoning for the project.

He said there is case law in B.C. to back up his claim that any benefits must be related to the development in question.

Even though the donation has now been removed from the deal, Lambert is still not satisfied with the current proposal.

"I’d be surprised if it’s the right answer," he said after Monday’s special council meeting.

"But on the other hand I fully understand that they only way we’re going to find out (if it’s the right answer) is if in fact we decide to take it on (legally) and we haven’t made a decision on that yet."

Lambert questions the gift of the wetlands and the resident housing that comes along with the project.

"It is our contention that zoning is still being bought and sold here and causing a development that otherwise would not be approved to be approved," said Lambert, adding that the scale and size of the project is too big for Nita Lake.

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