A marathon public hearing to deal with six villa rezoning applications Monday exposed bitter feelings among neighbours and caused several people to question the whole process.
Unlike the first three villa applications, which attracted less than 20 people to a public hearing in February, Monday’s three hour, 45 minute public hearing at Myrtle Philip school drew close to 60 people, many from Whistler Cay Heights, where four of the houses proposed for villa rezoning are located. Several people who spoke Monday said they are opposed to all villa or chalet operations in all residential neighbourhoods.
Don Wensley, who objected to the whole process, as well as the concept of having villas or chalets in residential neighbourhoods, called them "unlicensed nightclubs for everyone who wants to get drunk, get laid, or whatever."
Wensley asked why council was going to all the expense of rezonings when illegal rentals have been going on for years.
"This is insanity. You people don’t care. We’re your bosses, but you don’t listen."
Paul Burrows, who also opposed all six applications and a seventh which will be the subject of a future public hearing, asked where council "obtained a mandate to increase the density of residential Whistler." Burrows and other speakers pointed out that the whole process started out as an attempt by council to gain some control over houses being operated illegally as chalets or villas.
Burrows said: "... there is not one shred of evidence that the formalizing of these illegal uses is based on sound land use and planning ethics..."
Some people questioned what legalizing villas and chalets was going to do to the sewer capacity and bed unit cap. Others asked how, if the bylaw department hasn’t been able to enforce the exiting bylaw which prohibits nightly rental of houses, it was going to be any more effective once the rules are changed.
Michael D’Artois spoke for many when he said the noise created by neighbouring rental properties is offensive.
"Why the hell should I have to go through that crap in my neighbourhood?" he said.
D’Artois acknowledged the desired 50:50 split between public and private bed units that has always been municipal policy, but urged council to keep them separate.
"Once one of these places is rezoned the neighbourhood is no longer going to be residential. We are a resort and a community — but the community comes first.
"We’ve been pushed to the wall by the resort."
One of Wensley’s comments, repeated by many speakers, was that rezoning single family houses to villas increased the value of those properties "by stealing value from their neighbours."
"I feel I’ve been cheated," said one later speaker.
"I thought RS1 (single family) zoning meant something. You people are now talking about taking it away.
"If we’re going to keep trying to meeting all the demands by adding more beds, we’re going to ruin this place."
While many people spoke in opposition to the whole concept of legalizing villas, there were fewer concerns raised about the specific rezoning proposals presented Monday — some of the people who objected to villas in general even praised specific applicants as upstanding neighbours.
But they also noted that villa zoning stays with a specific property and that the next owners of property might not be as conscientious as the original applicants.
The municipal bylaw governing villa zoning requires that all such properties have a contract with a professional management company. Several property managers spoke of the increased accountability property managers provide and of the need to look at the specific rezoning applications.
Some applicants said they were seeking villa zoning out of financial necessity, to pay their mortgages.
Jeremy Bowman, whose house is at 6444 St. Andrews Way, said his villa rezoning application had met all the requirements and was one of the first applications received by the municipality. He said it has been operated as a villa for the past six years and there has only been one formal complaint in lodged in that time, and that for an incident caused by a previous tenant who lived in the suite.
"If I’m turned down, all applications in Whistler Cay Heights should be turned down," Bowman said.
Whether he is turned down remains to be seen. Council, as is its practice when there is opposition, held off voting on any of the applications, likely until the April 19 meeting.
The other rezoning applications at Monday’s public hearing were for houses at 6276 Palmer Drive, 6163 Eagle Drive and 6147 Eagle Drive in Whistler Cay Heights, as well as 3257 Archibald Way in Alta Vista and 8326 Rainbow Drive in Alpine Meadows.