By Bob Barnett
The owner and developer of the Riverside Campground is not happy with council’s suggestion that the campground has failed to live up to expectations.
“I do feel we’ve been dealt with unfairly and incorrectly,” Nigel Woods said this week.
At the June 18 council meeting a rezoning application for the second phase of the Riverside Campground development, on the east side of Fitzsimmons Creek, was sent back to staff, rather than to a public information meeting.
Mayor Ken Melamed said he was “shocked at how few promises were kept” in the first phase of development, while Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she was suspicious the project was morphing into something other than a campground.
Woods is frustrated that council members have come to these perceptions while denying him the opportunity to take the rezoning application to a public information meeting, where he could answer some of what he calls “allegations.”
“We followed the process and have been denied the opportunity to show the public,” Woods said. He said he invited all council members and staff to join him onsite last fall so he could explain his proposal and answer questions. Council declined.
Woods added that municipal staff wasn’t given any direction from council at the June 18 meeting and he is not about to change his plans, at least until he gets an opportunity to re-present to council.
“We’ve spent 16 months working with staff on this,” he said.
That work was boiled down to a nine-page report to council that “clearly suggested moving the project forward.” The Advisory Planning Commission also supported moving the project forward. The Whistler Chamber of Commerce doesn’t specifically endorse projects but the board supported Riverside’s phase II concept in a March 14 letter to council.
The history of the Riverside Campground goes back to the mid-90s, when Woods’ proposal was one of several responses to a municipal call for campground proposals. The criteria for a campground were set out prior to the proposal call by municipal staff and Riverside was chosen because it best met those criteria.
The land was re-zoned to allow for a campground, to be built in phases, and phase I — most of the existing facility — opened in December 1999. It includes 14 cabins, 30 tenting sites, 66 RV sites, a pitch and putt golf course and a lodge. The lodge includes washrooms, showers, laundry facilities, a restaurant and 20 employee housing suites.
The problem, said Woods, is that the campground opened just before the downturn in the economy and multiple problems that hit tourism. It was also hampered by a lack of RV business in the winter and not enough RV pads and camping sites on weekends during the summer. In the years since the campground has opened it’s just paid the bills.