Despite an overwhelmingly positive public hearing that saw 11 community members speak in favour of expanding Riverside Campground and adding a spa, council members remain divided on the proposal.
Top issues were the number of tent campsites on the 153,000 square metre plot of land, how affordable the expanded campground would be and where employees for the new Scandinavian-style day spa will be housed.
“There is a real disconnect between public support and council’s concerns,” said Mayor Ken Melamed.
“Council agreed largely with everything people were saying, but there are real issues that have not been addressed.”
The mayor added that the public hearing was not necessarily a comprehensive overview of the issue, saying: “It is disappointing that nobody came (to speak against the proposal) but their absence is not an indication of that.”
Despite the concerns, third reading of the rezoning application was unanimously approved Monday. Two conditions were attached to the application, one of which was not supported by all council members.
The expanded campground, on the east side of Fitzsimmons Creek, will include yurts, additional recreational vehicle sites and an eight-building “Scandinave Spa” featuring saunas, solariums and massage service. The number of tenting sites will also be reduced, to 16. There is to be no net loss of trails in the Lost Lake area as a result of the development.
Not all council members were hesitant about the proposal.
Councillor Tim Wake called Monday night’s turnout a “landmark public hearing” and pressed council to move along swiftly with the already year-old application.
“I have never seen a public hearing where we had so many people speak in favour and so few speak against,” said Wake.
“Timing is of essence here and every two weeks count.”
During the public hearing representatives from Woodall’s, a company that produces an RV directory for B.C., Alberta, the Yukon and the northern territories, said that while the RV market in North America is growing, especially among the baby-boomer generation, the number of RV sites in B.C. is diminishing.
Kim Smith from Woodall’s added: “The Riverside RV Resort achieves the highest rating possible and has been consistently committed to maintaining this level. They have also kept their overnight rates at comparable rates.”
Former businessperson of the year, Scott Carrell, also spoke strongly in favour of the proposal.
“From an economic standpoint, I think we are all aware of where the U.S. consumer confidence comes from,” said Carrell. “Forty nine per cent of those people who visit Whistler come from the United States, and global warming is a real concern. This is one of those amenities in town that can really be used and will be very successful.”
The municipality also received 13 pieces of correspondence in favour of the application.
The two conditions attached to the rezoning application are: clarify where their employees will be housed; and clarify the number and location of tent campsites.
The existing campground contains 66 RV sites, 30 tent sites and 14 guest cabins, as well as washroom facilities and an administration building with a restaurant, a games room and employee housing. A putting course is also on the property.
Riverside Campground originally received a development permit in 1999, and the first phase of the campsite opened for business the following year. The rezoning application for the expansion came to council in April 2007, with first and second reading granted in March of this year.
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