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Unused bed units remain on Four Seasons site



Intrawest will be allowed to keep the leftover bed units from their Four Seasons Residences development despite calls from Councillor Ken Melamed to get rid of them completely.

At Monday’s meeting council learned that the upscale development on the Blackcomb Benchlands will use up less than half of the bed units allocated to the site. In other words, only 144 bed units of the 299 that are available will be used in the development.

The RMOW’s Interim General Manager of Planning and Development Services, Bob MacPherson, told council that this leaves Intrawest with an extra 155 bed units possibly for future development on the site or maybe as leverage for future real estate deals.

"I’m not comfortable with the proposal," said Melamed.

"It implies that council many have to deal with future transactions."

Instead he proposed getting rid of the unused bed units altogether.

"The rest of the bed units should be extinguished and not be hanging over ours or the community’s heads."

Melamed said it was Intrawest’s choice not to do a high density residence, which used up all 299 bed units.

Instead the luxury development will be home to 36 apartments ranging from 1,800 to 3,700 square feet.

"If there’s a place for larger units, it’s on this site," said Mike Huggins of Burrowes Huggins Architecture, who presented a schematic at the meeting.

The Residences, like the neighbouring 273-room Four Seasons Hotel with its two massive presidential suites and 7,000 square foot spa, will be high-end real estate.

For example, each bathroom in the Four Seasons Residences is a five-piece bathroom, and there’s one attached to every bedroom in the development. The developer has also tried to maximize the number of units that have both east and west views.

The result is that the Residences are not as high-density as originally anticipated.

"These really are luxury units," said Huggins.

Councillor Kristi Wells said that although Intrawest may attempt to negotiate future deals with the leftover bed units, ultimately council must first approve any transaction.

"There’s no inherent right to have the bed units transferred," she said.

"... But they can ask."

Council decided to allow Intrawest to keep the 155 unused bed units with a stipulation that they remain on the Four Seasons Residences site, beside the Four Seasons Hotel.

"Keeping them on the site I don’t think is any threat to us," said Wells.

Early in 2001 council allowed Intrawest to retain a float of 116 bed units from the Four Seasons development after a more detailed site plan indicated that they could not effectively use all 1,106 units given to the two sites. It was agreed that the sites, former side-by-side parking lots in the Upper Village, were better suited to a development of 990 units. That would leave 691 bed units for the hotel and 299 for the Residences.

The loss of units was due in part to requests from the municipality when Intrawest began designing the hotel.

"The height of the building was a bit of a concern so we asked them to look at a lower building so that they lost some ability to develop there," said MacPherson.

"Then... when we did a detailed site planning exercise with Intrawest it became apparent that all the bed units, the 1,106, did not fit on the site that well and we thought it was in the community’s interest that we not try and cram them all on there."

The 116 floating units are inventory that the municipality recognizes but that still do not have a designated site.

The 155 leftover from the Residences will not be floating. Instead, after Monday’s decision, those units will remain connected entirely to the site of the Four Seasons Residences.

Councillor Caroline Lamont pointed to the bigger picture saying that this issue of bed units has become a piecemeal affair where council makes decisions from development to development with no set guidelines to follow.

"I think it’s a bigger question," she said.

The development of the Four Seasons Hotel and the adjoining Four Seasons Residences was negotiated as part of the controversial Emerald Forest deal.

More than three years ago Intrawest bought the environmentally-sensitive Emerald Forest from the Decigon group for an undisclosed amount and then transferred the land to the municipality to be preserved in trust, in exchange for $1 million and enough bed units for their Four Seasons development.

Early last year Intrawest had the largest real estate sales launch ever when suites in the Four Seasons hotel sold out in about five hours. Those suites, which range between 590 and 2,900 square feet, sold for a total of $152 million.

The Four Seasons Residences have yet to go on sale but are expected to be on the market this season. There will be two, three and four bedroom homes in the seven-storey building that promises "spectacular outlooks of Sproatt and the Callaghan."

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