Council vetoed a zoning amendment bylaw on Monday that would have allowed residential homes in Whistler to have a maximum of five bedrooms.
Instead, they approved the bedroom increase for residential properties that are zoned for tourist accommodation.
These TA properties can now legally have five bedrooms with up to 10 guests, making the municipality's zoning bylaw more consistent with the B.C. Fire Code. That code allows up to 10 guests in residential TA zones.
"The inconsistency and the number of guests that you can have under the zoning versus under the Fire Code is just causing some confusion out there," said Bob MacPherson, general manager of planning and development services with the municipality.
"So we're just trying to clean up that inconsistency."
Another reason the bylaw was introduced was to ensure that people are sleeping in safe places. Illegal bedrooms with guests crammed to the rafters pose a serious threat to overall safety for people living in or visiting the resort.
"One of the core things for me in this is, where people are sleeping should be somewhere that's been reviewed from a code perspective as being safe for sleeping," said MacPherson.
He explained that many designers, builders and architects who work in the resort know Whistler's four-bedroom limitation. As such, 5,000 square foot homes can have additional rooms, called sewing rooms or media rooms, and once the plans are approved those rooms then become bedrooms.
The problem is that a sewing room has different egress requirements than a bedroom, which is cause for some concern said MacPherson.
"It's easier to get out of a bedroom in an emergency than it is a sewing room," he said.
This applies to both residential properties and TA zoned properties he said.
"From my perspective, and I seem to be the only one pushing for this... is it gets back to building code," said MacPherson.
Though councillors could see justification in increasing the bedrooms in the TA zone, they were hesitant to approve the increase in the RS residential zone.
"I see this as a slippery slope," said Councillor Ken Melamed.
He explained that many people in Whistler have already built homes with more than four bedrooms. If the municipality legitimizes five bedrooms, how many years will it be until six bedrooms are the legal limit he asked?
Other councillors echoed his comments.
Councillor Kristi Wells said the increase in the TA zone could help the municipality with enforcement in the tourist accommodation sector.
"I think is this is a viable tool," said Wells.
But she did not think it was the best way to deal with the problem in the residential zones.
"I see we have a couple of ways to meet the same goal here," said Wells.
"It's just a whole other can of worms to say, 'now it's five bedrooms' (in residential zones.)"
Councillor Marianne Wade called a motion at the meeting that removed the zoning amendment from residential zones. It was approved unanimously by the five members of council who could vote on it.
Mayor Hugh O'Reilly and Councillor Gordon McKeever were not part of the discussion because of conflicts of interest.
Wade also added that some of the issues around illegal rooms in Whistler homes will be addressed by the non-conforming space task force, which is working on a series of recommendations that deal with this problem, among others.
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