Impacts of illegal space bylaw presented 

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The municipality has issued 67 building permits for space once considered "illegal" in Whistler, adding almost 9,453 square metres to the construction books.

That's more than 100,000 square feet of space in roughly 15 months since council approved the new bylaw, which allows a percentage of basement space to be excluded from the gross floor area of a home. That 100,000 square feet includes space already built and space now under construction.

"Initially, the uptake was slow," said municipal manager of building services Joe Mooney.

He said contractors would come to the hall and ask about the new bylaw warily, unsure if there was a hidden agenda.

But as the understanding of the bylaw grew, the uptake began to pick up. In particular, homeowners looking to sell their homes are coming to get their files cleaned up, and their once illegal space made legal, before putting their homes on the market.

"We're actually quite happy with the process and how it's moving forward," added Mooney.

Because of the uncertainty of the fallout from the new bylaw, council had asked for a two-year trial period to monitor the impacts of its decision in May 2011. This is the first report detailing the bylaw's effects.

Staff has assessed the data to estimate incremental energy consumption associated with the uptake on the new bylaw.

Staff estimates roughly 3,100 square metres (more than 33,000 square feet) could be added every year based on the current uptake levels of the new bylaw.

Based on that number, it would be expected to take roughly 10 years to cause a one per cent increase in the energy consumption of the residential sector, and 14 years for the greenhouse gas footprint of the residential sector to increase one per cent.

As for the impact on Whistler's infrastructure, from schools to water and sewer, staff is attempting to find out whether more legal space means more people.

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