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TA rezoning application draws fire

Snowridge homeowners seek to rectify oversight

John Richmond is in the tenuous business of renting out his high-end Nicklaus North home for nightly accommodation.

Richmond’s business has dropped by almost half in the last three years. He is at 38 per cent occupancy this season, down from 62 per cent in the 2002-03 season, and he doesn’t expect business to pick up any time soon.

That’s why he spoke out in opposition of the municipality’s plans to rezone 22 homes on Snowridge Crescent for Tourism Accommodation, which would allow homeowners to rent their ski in/ski out locations nightly.

"The business has become so competitive," Richmond told council at Monday’s public hearing for the rezoning.

He’s not saying he would be opposed if the market conditions were better, but right now things are pretty grim.

Richmond wasn’t the only one to speak in opposition and to highlight the difficult times facing those in the resort’s short-term rental business, particularly in the high-end market.

"There’s an over supply of accommodation," said Lina Jacobs, who also owns a TA zoned home at Nicklaus North.

"We’re extremely, seriously worried about our future family income."

Snowridge strata owners, however, believe it’s an oversight their homes don’t have TA zoning.

The homes were developed in 1988 and at that time the zoning bylaw did not address the issue of nightly rentals.

In 1990 the bylaw was amended, defining residential zones as different from TA zones. Homes zoned residential cannot be rented out for periods of less than a month. The Snowridge homeowners believe they were overlooked when the zoning bylaw was changed and so their homes are zoned residential.

Steve Bayly bought his home there in 1987 and he believes the homes were zoned TA. The homeowners have always paid Tourism Whistler fees for living in an area designated "resort lands."

"This is correcting an oversight," Bayly told council.

"This (zoning) already exists."

Bayly understands why others are upset. But he also contends that rectifying the zoning for Snowridge will not flood the struggling TA market in the resort.

The last home to sell in the neighbourhood, he explained, went for more than $6 million. It doesn’t make economic sense for people buying $6 million homes to rent them nightly, said Bayly.

Three more Snowridge homeowners spoke out in favour of the rezoning, including Lisa Dykhuizen.

Dykhuizen and her husband Jack are the original owners of their home. They bought it because it had a suite and they wanted to live in the suite during the high season, when they rent out the main portion of the home. They have been doing that for years.

Dykhuizen explained to council that they honestly believe they have always been entitled to rent out their home.

Jacobs took issue with this, highlighting a long-troubling problem in the resort municipality – illegal nightly rentals. Jacobs produced a printout from a website advertising a Snowridge home for $1,700 a night – technically illegal because the house is not zoned for nightly rentals.

"This is the kind of competition we’re facing," she said, holding the advertisement aloft.

She implored council to enforce the bylaw and prevent illegal competition, which she said is plaguing the community and undermining the market for legal nightly renters.

Municipal staff supports the rezoning. Council will consider the application at the Feb. 6 meeting.