editorial 

On Feb. 15, Whistler council decided that rezoning chalets and villas was of such significance to the community that there should be at least five council members present to vote on each application. This week, two years after first deciding to tackle the chalet and villa issue, six councillors couldn’t decide if they are going about it the right way, so they have suspended further review while they ponder the best approach. In the meantime, all those who have tried to legalize their operations are stymied and subject to the May 1 deadline to cease and desist. It’s been a painfully long learning curve for council to get to this point. Those who’ve stayed awake through the various information sessions, public hearings and council meetings of the last two years may recall that temporary commercial use permits, TCUPS, were the direction council initially took to deal with chalets and villas. There was also some discussion of limiting chalets and villas to designated resort lands. But after exploring these roads council and staff changed direction and opted for rezoning. Now they appear ready to change course again. Enforcing the existing bylaw which prohibits nightly rental of most single family homes — which is at the root of this whole issue — is one option. Putting all chalets and villas in a new subdivision, where they won’t impact on residents, is another. Whether visitors would be happy staying in a subdivision full of other visitors remains to be seen. In fairness to council, it should be remembered that a lot of time has been spent trying to find a workable solution to the chalets and villas issue because the WRA, Whistler-Blackcomb, various tour operators and property managers all insisted they were serving a market Whistler could not afford to lose. That was the motivation; the motivation was not to find a way for people to finance their homes or, as the campaign which has seen dozens of letters sent to council in the last few months implies, to give all home owners the option of rezoning their property and increasing its value. Last week, at a public hearing for six villa rezoning applications, neighbours and residents spoke passionately and eloquently against chalets and villas. Some had horror stories of all-night parties that kept them awake. Others had no problems with the current owners or operators but wondered if the next owner of a house that was permanently zoned for chalet use would be so conscientious. In short, neighbours wondered why they should have to put up with potential disruptions and uncertainty in their homes for the good of the resort. Having spent two years on the issue and tried various approaches, it now appears council has few options left other than to enforce the existing bylaw prohibiting nightly rentals. Coming off a record-breaking winter, it’s easy to say Whistler doesn’t need the chalet/villa market — and it has probably lost much of it for next year already by taking so long to act. But this could also be an opportunity to bring back bed & breakfasts and pensions, many of which have been operated as chalets or villas recently because its been cheaper and easier to do so. And remember too, there are still places such as Nicklaus North where it is legal to rent by the night. In other words, the high-end market for villas can still be served. But having made a meal of this issue for two years and, dare we say, municipal elections on the horizon, it’s time for council to mercifully end this matter. Enforce the existing bylaw and return all the application fees.

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