If anyone ever needed an example of why the old adage "don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today" should be followed they need look no further than the chalet and villa issue now before Whistler council.
A couple of weeks ago council dealt with the first four of at least 42 rezoning applications to legalize chalet or villa accommodations in residential neighbourhoods. This week they dealt with another four — "dealt with" meaning giving the applications first and second reading or turning them down. Those that receive first and second reading still have to go through a public hearing process and then come back to council for third reading and then again for adoption.
There are well over 100 units which have been operated "illegally" as chalets or villas, but they aren’t all expected to submit rezoning applications because only a limited number of rezonings will be permitted: 15 per neighbourhood or 5 per cent of a the houses in a neighbourhood, which ever is greater.
However, if only the 42 applications which have been received to date are brought to council, at the current rate of four per council meeting it will take another 14 meetings — to the beginning of September — just to give those applications first and second reading or reject them outright. Public hearings could continue into the next millennium.
Mayor Hugh O’Reilly may be able to skip most of those meetings as he has to declare a conflict of interest each time the issue of commercial accommodation in residential neighbourhoods comes up.
As for many of those properties winning approval in time to be included in tour operators’ marketing plans for next winter, don’t bet on it.
Some of the delay in rezoning — following a one-year grace period in which chalets and villas were notified that changes were coming but were allowed to continue to operate — is because owners didn’t believe the municipality was serious about enforcing its existing bylaw, which prohibits nightly rental of most single family residential homes. Many thought they could continue to operate in contravention of the bylaw as they have done for years.
And therein lies the root of the problem. The municipality had a bylaw which it never enforced and over the years an industry and a market grew up. Now, some people are suggesting that with visitor numbers being well above expectations so far this winter, next winter there may be a shortage of commercial accommodation.
And so the arguments go, back and forth. Some people were able to buy homes and could afford to continue to live in Whistler because of the money chalet and villa operations brought in, while others say chalet operations in their neighbourhood nearly drove them out of Whistler.
Many of the complaints and calls for regulating chalet and villa operations came from residents of White Gold; now there is a letter writing campaign from White Gold residents objecting to the 15/5 per cent limit on commercial accommodation, which means only one more property can be rezoned in their subdivision.
Not everyone is happy with this process, but that’s what happens when issues are not dealt with in a timely manner.