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Tennis Association disappointed by council response

Group believes the municipality does have the power to compel developer to support facility

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Members of the Whistler Tennis Association believe council could do more to compel Holborn to support the facility, restoring hours of operations and reducing court fees, despite council's opinion that it's out of their hands.

"People are asking for us to take action," said Mayor Ken Melamed on Mar. 1 at Council.

"There is no action for us to take."

He also suggested that the association should offer to take over operation of the facility from Holborn.

John Konig, head of the association, said the municipality does have some power.

"In Ken's words there's nothing we can do to force or compel Holborn, but what we say to that is that it's all influence in the negotiations," he said. "Maybe we can't legally compel Holborn to do anything, but they can certainly call in Holborn and say they will instruct staff to remove bed units or that they have their lawyers looking into it.

"We've been told that if this (rezoning application) stays in third reading indefinitely, which is as far as (Holborn's plans) have gone, at some point the rezoning application should go back to the public again because things change. At this point it could be 10 years before anything is built, and this should go back to public consultation."

As for the suggestion that the club operate the facility, Konig said that option has been discussed in the tennis community. However, he said Holborn has not shared its financial statements with anyone and therefore the association has no idea what it would cost to operate the club - or where they would come up with the seed funding to get it off the ground.

"We've found that Holborn is not easy to communicate with, which is putting in mildly," said Konig, who said that information on operating costs has been requested numerous times.

Coming into this winter, hours of operation at the club have been reduced from 84 hours a week to 24 hours, while court rental fees have increased from $32 per hour to $50 per hour. Konig said that maintenance has also lapsed, which is also Holborn's responsibility.

Holborn purchased the property at the end of Northlands Boulevard from Park Georgia, which at the time was zoned to include a hotel and a world-class tennis facility. That hotel was never developed, although a temporary tennis facility with a heated dome was built on the site.

Given the lack of need for additional hotel rooms in the current economy, Holborn went through a three-plus year process of rezoning the property to allow for residential units instead of a hotel, as well the construction of a seniors housing and an $18 million tennis and fitness facility that would eventually be operated by the municipality.

That proposal passed third reading in 2008, but has yet to come forward for the fourth and final reading, which would trigger various deadlines.

With the latest financial crisis cooling demand for new homes it appears that Holborn has delayed the project indefinitely. In the meantime there is some dispute over what the company's obligations are as far as keeping the legacy tennis facility operating.

The tennis and racquet club is in fact the entire reason that the bed units exist on the lot. In the 1980s the RMOW recognized that they needed world-class amenities to compete with other resorts, and awarded bed units in the resort to developers in exchange for building those amenities. The result is the Nicklaus North golf course and neighbourhood, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and golf course and the Whistler Tennis and Racquet Club. Without the tennis club, the tennis association has pointed out, the bed units would not exist.

For their part, Holborn maintains that it is losing money operating the facility and may close the club if it continues to run at a loss.

Pique did contact the Mayor and all six councillors for comment on the issue, but aside from the Mar. 1 council meeting none of Whistler's elected members have gone on record.

 

 

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