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Riverside’s history under scrutiny

Rezoning application for campground sent back to staff, not ready for public review

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By Alison Taylor

A perceived failure to live up to council’s expectations for an affordable camping experience in Whistler could hinder Riverside Campground’s chances for rezoning.

That was the message from council Monday night as they sent the rezoning application for the campground’s expansion back to staff with serious reservations.

“I’m not sure that the rezoning application is viable,” said Mayor Ken Melamed.

In his research of the history of the Riverside campground, Melamed said: “I was shocked at how few promises were kept.”

Attempts to reach the developers before Pique Newsmagazine’s deadline were unsuccessful.

Riverside’s developers are hoping to build-out the site with modifications to their original plan. The new proposal includes an 18,000 square foot Scandinavian spa facility complete with outdoor whirlpools, thermal waterfalls and steam baths.

While the rezoning does not propose more campsites, it includes a wider range of options, such as more RV sites, drive up sites and Yurts, to meet industry trends.

Council took issue with several parts of the rezoning application.

Councillor Bob Lorriman questioned the previous development of the 14 guest cabins on the site. He said they were originally supposed to be a simple walled structure with no indoor plumbing or cooking facilities. How should staff react to the fact that this commitment was overstepped, he asked at Monday’s meeting.

The mayor also took issue with the cabins, which he called four-star accommodation.

“It’s like a fully serviced hotel room,” he explained.

And Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, who along with the mayor was on council in 1999 for the original approval of the campsite, said the rezoning confirms her suspicions that Riverside is morphing into something other than a campground. It was an issue she said she raised back at the initial rezoning because land in Whistler is too valuable for campground use.

The mayor echoed those comments.

“It’s already more expensive than any campsite I’ve ever been to,” he said after the meeting. “This was supposed to be a low-cost, family-oriented amenity.”

There were other inconsistencies between what was promised and what was delivered, said the mayor.

When asked why these issues weren’t raised in April when the application first came before council, the mayor said simply that they missed the bigger picture of Riverside’s history.

“I’ll take some responsibility for that.”

He also raised concerns about the energy footprint of the site, an issue previously raised by Councillor Gordon McKeever.

The development proposed in the rezoning should be energy neutral, said Melamed.

“We need to do things differently from now hence,” he added.

Staff had requested council approve moving the application to a public open house. That was rejected.

Wilhelm-Morden suggested council be upfront now about its position rather than asking for more information. It’s in nobody’s interest to continue processing the application in vain, she said.

“There are some very real showstoppers,” she added.

Among those concerns is the second egress to the site for fire safety requirements. That issue has yet to be officially resolved.

Lorriman, however, expressed his support for the concept. He said he thought it was a good amenity, but if the developers are going to make commitments, they must be followed up.

“I really do hope it does come back,” said Lorriman.

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