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Whistler council hears from frustrated owners at land-use contract termination hearing

With provincial deadline looming, Vale Inn, Blueberry and Fairmont golf course owners want more clarity 
N-LUCs Vale Inn 29.03 BY MEGAN LALONDE
The Vale Inn in Creekside.

Whistler officials heard from the community at public hearings this week ahead of a trio of provincially mandated land-use contract (LUC) terminations, and owners at the affected properties are seeking more clarity over the proposed rezoning at the sites. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 18, public hearings were held for three of the remaining LUCs set for rezoning: Blueberry, the Fairmont Chateau Golf Club, and The Vale. 

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has until June 30 to terminate the existing LUCs and replace them with “like-for-like” zoning. LUCs were a regulatory tool used in place of zoning in B.C. between 1970 and 1980, and seven years ago, Victoria set a 2022 deadline requiring municipalities to zone all lands subject to LUCs. 

Steve Sandercott, director with Oxford Properties Group, owners of the Fairmont golf club, told elected officials they were “very disappointed” with how the process has played out so far. 

“Our expectation was that the RMOW would abide by the land-use termination process developed and adopted in 2016 to ensure fairness and consistency in the land-use termination and rezoning process,” he said. “One of [those] pillars is the like-for-like principle which has not been followed in its application to our land.” 

The ownership believes the RMOW’s proposed rezoning to a single new zone, Leisure Recreation 11, essentially restricts their existing development rights by putting heavy-handed restrictions on density, building height and permitted uses. The proposed LR11 zoning would permit the golf-course use, including auxiliary buildings and uses associated with a golf course such as a clubhouse, maintenance facility and workshop, restaurant, retail, equipment rental and winter outdoor recreation.

Councillor Duane Jackson wondered whether the RMOW should be incentivizing more diverse usage of the site. 

“Was there any conversation with the property owner about the potential for future upgrades to maintenance buildings, reinvestment in the clubhouse, employee housing—all challenges that a lot of this aging infrastructure will need to address if not now [then in the future]?” he said.  

In response, planning director Mike Kirkegaard reiterated that any addition of employee housing, for instance, would require a rezoning. 

Several owners at The Vale Inn and Vale Townhouses also spoke at the hearing, including Vale strata president and owner Paul Hothersall, who said that the zoning proposed to replace the existing LUC doesn’t include a supposedly longstanding use for townhome owners: short-term rental.

According to RMOW planners, however, the townhomes are zoned as multiple residential and “residential buildings are for residential use and do not permit tourist accommodation unless otherwise provided for in a zoning bylaw or in the covenant,” Kirkegaard said. 

Hothersall believes the discrepancy lies in missing paperwork at municipal hall: the original Cheakamus Inn Hotel built in the late ’60s burned down in 1982, and Hothersall told Pique that the RMOW has relayed it does not have plans on file for the 65-unit, four-storey building that was built the following year. (Pique is awaiting verification on this point from the RMOW.) 

“So because of that … basically the muni has issued a Section 84 work order, which basically says that you have to return it back to the building permit that we know about, which was the original 1960s construction and not the 1983 rebuild, which happened because they can’t find the paperwork,” Hothersall said in a call prior to the hearing. 

As previously reported in Pique, senior RMOW staff said differences between strata unit plans and what the building department has on file have been popping up more frequently as owners look to upgrade older units. 

“I don’t understand exactly the mechanism of why those differences occur, but it is causing quite a lot of problems for when people come in and want to upgrade, renovate, do something better in their place,” GM of infrastructure James Hallisey said in a September interview. 

But Hothersall and other Vale townhouse owners contend that short-term rentals have been a part of the strata bylaws for years, and up-to-date building plans were registered at the land title office. 

Mike Shove, chair of the Blueberry Links Strata*, also spoke at the hearing, seeking reassurance for Blueberry owners that the new zoning would indeed be “like-for-like in terms of usage and replacement [zoning] of the various properties.” 

In response, Mayor Jack Crompton reiterated that “the intention of the land-use termination process is like-for-like.” 

The RMOW will now collect the feedback and written submissions from Tuesday’s hearing before preparing a final report with recommendations for council ahead of potential third reading. 

*An earlier version of this article incorrectly named the strata in Blueberry as the Blueberry Lynx Strata.