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Proposed Pemberton Lodge turned down by council



Development costs in Pemberton to be reviewed

Just past the Petro-Canada in Pemberton there’s a plot of land where an $11-million hotel is proposed.

The development would be unlike anything Pemberton has ever seen. It would be a large three-storey building with 85 strata-titled units, complete with a swimming pool and underground parking lot.

Although the design criteria in Pemberton calls for a rural western look, the developer said this hotel wouldn’t have a "cowboy" style, rather it would look like a lodge, just as the name The Pemberton Valley Lodge suggests.

"I honestly think there’s a real need for a mid-market hotel in Pemberton," said developer Ed Alm, a partner in Skymount Properties, which has been working on the project since the late spring.

"There’s just the one hotel in Pemberton, which has been there for a long, long time."

But Pemberton council rejected the proposed hotel at a December council meeting because Skymount Properties wants to pay less in development costs.

Under the current formula the Pemberton Valley Lodge would cost $547,000 in voluntary cost contributions, or VCCs.

VCCs are gifted to the village as part of any development charges.

The developer figured these costs, which are higher in Pemberton than many other communities, were prohibitive to the development and they proposed to pay less.

"It makes it very difficult for any kind of developer to go up there and build a hotel in Pemberton when they’re faced with extraordinary costs," said Alm.

The village administrator Bryan Kirk recognizes that development charges in Pemberton are above average.

"Our cost charges are higher than most," he said.

"They are not really voluntary. They are a requirement to help finance infrastructure."

For example Kirk said a couple of year ago a single-family home development in Pemberton cost $10,000 in VCCs. The same development in Squamish cost less than half that amount.

Councillor Mark Blundell said that in a working session before the council meeting, a resolution was made to give the developer a reduction in their VCCs that would be no lower than $365,000.

Skymount Properties approached council with a number that was somewhere in between at $400,000.

"This is much higher still than say Squamish or any other community," said Blundell.

"I made a resolution to support that development because they were willing to pay $400,000."

But his resolution was defeated. The three newly elected councillors did not support the reduced development fees for this project.

Blundell said Skymount’s offer was fair.

"They were prepared to pay a higher price to come to Pemberton," he said.

"The bottom line is that our development costs are out of line with other municipalities and I felt at the time that we could make it work at $400,000..., and we were still being higher than most of the municipalities."

Blundell said even though the proposal called for a $125,000 reduction in development fees, the hotel would have generated more than that in property taxes in its first year alone.

Added to that, there would have been construction jobs and hotel industry jobs created from the project.

"I think the net effect of the whole project would have created some excitement, some economic benefit and would be a real addition to our community. I don’t think people should be turning away $11-million projects," said Blundell.

Now Alm is back at the drawing board weighing his options for the Pemberton Valley Lodge,

He said that there is a market out there for this type of development, especially for those people who are driven away from the high costs in Whistler.

"There’s a market for a whole chunk or people who really can’t afford to go to Whistler. It’s just out of their budget," he said.

"To stay (at the Pemberton Valley Lodge) would be less."

Alm will be making a decision about where to proceed with the project in the New Year.

"My partners and I are basically going to reassess where we are in terms of all of those costs and come to a decision," said Alm.

"If it means going back to the municipality than we have to do that or if it means killing the project then maybe we have to do that."

In the meantime Pemberton council has made a resolution to do a study to move from VCCs to DCCs, which are Development Cost Charges.

DCCs are provincially legislated development charges.

Blundell said: "We instructed administration to go back and actually form new DCCs rather than have VCCs. Most municipalities have this bylaw so when you have a development you know exactly what you’re going to pay."

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