Chalet, villa applications ‘in purgatory’
By Bob Barnett
Two years after first trying to deal with illegal tourist accommodations Whistler council has suspended all chalet and villa rezoning applications while it re-evaluates the whole process.
The decision, made at Monday’s regular council meeting, leaves more than 40 applications in limbo, including two villas in Alpine Meadows which have received third reading but have not yet been adopted.
Meanwhile, a May 1, 1999 deadline for all chalet and villa operations — estimated at well over 100 — to either obtain rezoning or cease and desist operations remains in place.
"They’re in purgatory," Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said when asked where chalet and villa applicants now stood.
O’Reilly was not part of council’s decision, as he declares a conflict of interest on tourist accommodation rezonings and excuses himself from all such council deliberations.
"It started out as an enforcement issue," said Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, "and two years later..."
Wilhelm-Morden has been opposed to rezoning chalet and villa accommodations in existing residential neighbourhoods all along. A three hour, 45 minute public hearing on April 12 concerning six villa applications raised doubts in other councillors’ minds.
Councillor Ted Milner said the April 12 meeting crystallized his thinking on chalets and villas.
"I put myself in the scenario of neighbours (of chalets and villas) and I don’t like it.
"I initially thought the licensing process would work," Milner said. "But this activity seems so pervasive, opportunistic..."
Milner said spot zoning for chalets and villas provides a level of permanence that isn’t right for neighbourhoods.
"I don’t believe this activity is crucial to the resort’s success. There’s a market for it... but it should be in a designated neighbourhood."
Wilhelm-Morden said the message that residents don’t want chalets and villas in their neighbourhoods was loud and clear at the April 12 public hearing.
"It’s unfair to neighbours and the applicants. The process is flawed," Wilhelm-Morden said.
Asked if she felt the same way about bed & breakfasts and pensions, Wilhelm-Morden pointed out that no new B&Bs or pensions have been approved recently and one of the last that was approved by council was then shut down by a judge after neighbours took the decision to court.
As well, many B&B and pension owners have in recent winters leased their properties to tour operators for use as chalets or villas.
A rezoning application for a bed & breakfast at 6170 Eagle Drive was given third reading early in March but the bylaws have yet to be adopted by council.
The moratorium on dealing with chalet and villa applications is for a maximum of six weeks, while council and staff re-evaluate the process.
Another villa application, for 8127 Alpine Way, and a bed and breakfast application, for 7422 Ambassador Crescent, were on agenda for first and second reading Monday night. Also, the six villa applications that were the subject of the April 12 public hearing were up for third reading Monday. All were tabled.