Muni sues Woods at Rainbow for land

Jennifer Miller

The municipality has launched a lawsuit against The Woods at Rainbow development company because the parcel known as Lot 10 has so far not been transferred to the municipality after it exercised its option to purchase the land.

But developer Rod Nadeau said on Tuesday (May 25) that the suit will “be over before it gets started,” because he’s planning to sign the land over to the municipality in the coming days.

“I just don’t have the stomach to fight them anymore,” Nadeau said.

The lawsuit stems from a contentious, closed-door Whistler council vote in early January to reject the pricing model presented by The Woods at Rainbow for the seniors-restricted condo units planned on Lot 10 of the new Rainbow neighbourhood. The Woods developers came forward with a price of $370 per square foot, which the majority of council felt was too far off the average of about $250 per square foot for existing resident-restricted housing in Whistler.

Councillors Ralph Forsyth and Eckhard Zeidler later went public with their disapproval of the decision.

Because council rejected the pricing, the option to purchase was triggered, entitling the municipality to buy the parcel of land for $10.

But so far the land hasn’t been turned over to the municipality, and municipal lawyers filed a writ of summons in B.C. Supreme Court on April 30.

According to the writ, developers of the Woods have “wrongfully breached the option (to purchase) by failing to complete the sale of the land.” Because of the breach, the municipality has “suffered loss, damage and expense,” the suit reads.

In addition to the transfer of the land, the lawsuit claims various damages and costs against The Woods.

At its May 18 public meeting, council voted to adjust the municipal budgets to provide $20,000 in legal costs arising from exercising the option to purchase Lot 10.

When asked on Friday (May 21) about the approved expenditure, Mayor Ken Melamed did not reveal that a lawsuit had been filed.

“We’re still pursuing the transfer of the parcel,” he said. “It hasn’t been finalized.”

When asked if there was any reason to believe the land transfer wouldn’t take place, Melamed said, “We’re confident the transfer will go through.”

Nadeau admitted that until now he has “refused” to turn Lot 10 over to the municipality. He said he was “pissed off” when council rejected the pricing model after more than a year of planning and design work on the project and about $200,000 in expenses.

Developers worked with municipal staff and members of Whistler’s Mature Action Committee (MAC) to design a seniors housing project to suit the needs of local seniors only to have council “change the rules at the 11th hour,” Nadeau said. The $370-per-square-foot price point was “an accurate assessment of the building and design” costs, he said.

“(Council) wanted a further subsidy above and beyond what we were required to do (under the zoning),” Nadeau said.

At the advice of a lawyer who Nadeau said characterized council’s rejection as a “rezoning without due process,” he refused to turn over the land.

But now, in the face of the lawsuit, Nadeau said he’s ready to give up the fight.

“I’m not young enough to fight them,” he said. “They can have it.”

Gordon Leidal, outgoing president of MAC, said the situation with Lot 10 is “disappointing” because until the land transfer is resolved, no progress can be made on providing seniors housing on the site.

Any housing delivered on the site is now under the municipality’s control, with options such as hiring a development consultant or even selling the land to another group.

“I guess we just have to wait and see what’s going to happen,” Leidal said.

Melamed said until the land transfer is complete, any work on planning housing for the site would be “premature.”

In the meantime, sales are underway for a Woods at Rainbow seniors building on the adjacent Lot 11. Nadeau said about a third of the building’s 20 units have been sold, and construction will start once about two-thirds are sold.

Though the target demographic for the units is still seniors, the condos are now available for sale to anyone, he said

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