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Tempest brewing over TCUPs

Information meeting on Dec. 9; bylaw public hearing Dec. 15

Next month, business owners and residents can give their two cents on a blanket bylaw that will govern temporary commercial uses during the 2010 Olympics.

If approved, the temporary commercial use permit (TCUP) bylaw will let property owners lease to groups like VANOC until June 1, 2010 for irregular uses.

For example if restaurant operators wanted to close their doors between February and March 2010 and rent the space to a retail company, they would need a TCUP.

Or, if VANOC wanted to put a 5,000 square foot merchandise tent on a golf course, they would also need to get a TCUP from the municipality.

The bylaw has already received first and second reading from the last council, and the public hearing is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. at MY Millennium Place.

Along with commercial spaces, the bylaw could also affect accommodation during the Games.

“What the Local Government Act says is on application by an owner of land, a local government may — not shall — issue a temporary commercial or industrial permit,” said Bill Brown, manager of community planning for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

“The planning department will provide all the assistance in helping applicants understand the process, but we are not out there as an advocate for anybody,” he added.

The bylaw is being enacted to prepare for the large number of temporary uses that VANOC and other agencies require during the Olympics. Such bylaws are common in host cities.

VANOC is still hammering out what their exact needs will be for both accommodation and commercial uses. When the bylaw is finalized, details of the VANOC processes will be announced, said Jacqui Murdoch, vice president of services and accommodation for VANOC.

To apply for a TCUP, property owners will have to fill out an RMOW application form.

“It is very similar to a development permit. You submit your application form with all the supporting information and then it is processed by the municipality,” said Brown.

Brown added that the municipality will only regulate the use of property through TCUPS, not who uses the space. However the RMOW will make sure to protect renters, and plans to keep a registry of people who are afraid they might lose their accommodation during the Games.

“As long as it is a normal business transaction, we are probably not going to get involved. We are really concerned about protecting our workforce and our renters,” said Brown.

Details of the TCUP bylaw are still being worked out, and more information will be revealed soon. A public information session will likely be held Tuesday, Dec. 9 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Flute Room at municipal hall.

Brown also assured that the bylaw is not intended to jeopardize local businesses.

“There will be a huge amount of scrutiny about any temporary buildings, especially those placed in the village and Creekside,” said Brown.

“There will be an enormous amount of analysis that goes into protecting site lines, protecting pedestrian movement, and protecting existing businesses. There are guidelines in the bylaw all about that.”

But the TCUP bylaw is stirring up some unease among the business community in Whistler.

Sandy Black — owner Affinity Sports Rentals, the largest group of independent rental shops in Whistler — plans to attend next month’s public hearing because he is worried temporary merchants in the village could further the reduce the lower revenue he is already bracing for.

“The bylaw is too broad reaching,” said Black.

“It does some good things that are necessary for the Olympics because it allows them to run operations in a way that can make the Olympics successful. Unfortunately, the same bylaw gives a whole bunch of power that could allow them to get involved with temporary superstore tents, temporary stores and temporary food and beverage outlets.”

Black said he would prefer to see a temporary use bylaw that would only apply to the operations of the Games, not merchandise outlets.

“At the end of the day, the answer would be to restrict any kind of additional retail or food and beverage operations in the village and not make those items part of the bylaw,” he said.

The Chamber of Commerce and Restaurant Association also want to ensure the TCUP bylaw would not give an unfair advantage over businesses that have been in Whistler for years.

“We are currently collecting facts about how TCUPs are to be used and granted so we can keep our membership informed and, depending on what we learn, offer an opinion on behalf of our membership at the upcoming public hearing,” said Fiona Famulak, president of the chamber.

Meanwhile the chamber and Tourism Whistler are orchestrating a commercial matching program for the 2010 Games. The program — which was launched Nov. 4 — will hook up businesses wanting to lease space during the Games with people who have space to rent.

Brown said after the TCUP bylaw is adopted, the municipality will need to pass a second bylaw, a procedures bylaw, to dictate how TCUPS are chartered. Certain permits would need approval from council; others could be issued by staff.

Also TCUPS will not be granted on land considered environmentally sensitive.




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