Non-conforming space bylaw delayed 

Issue has been looked at for a decade

It's been on the minds of council, staff and local homebuilders for about a decade and the rules seemed close to change.

But council voted Tuesday night to refer a non-conforming space bylaw back to staff for more work, effectively resisting that change that so many homeowners in the community, including the Canadian Homebuilders Association (CHBA), have already been working toward.

"When they wrote this report, they (staff) talk about how this will load the services and how this would (impact) the system," Tim Regan, president of Vision Pacific and former president of the CHBA, told Pique .

"What we're saying is this is how it is. It's not how it's going to be, it's how it's been built. It's almost like this report was written like how it would be in the future but the future has arrived because this intrinsically is how Whistler was built."

In 2008, the CHBA proposed a bylaw to address the pervasive issue of non-conforming space by measuring overall volumetric space instead of square footage space. This would allow for the maximum floor space to be used on the property - something that is already being done in 80 per cent of Whistler homes, according to the CHBA, albeit illegally. The proposed bylaw was meant to pull as many of these places into conformity as possible.

Council rejected the proposal in its current form over concerns that it did not address potential impacts on infrastructure, on energy and emission targets outlined in the OCP, nor did it provide examples of how volumetric density calculations work.

"The staff and the proponents need to work on this a little more," said Robert Brennan, a planner for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, stressing that the CHBA needs to outline the implications that changing the bylaw will have.

"We want to make sure we're not creating a problem as opposed to providing a solution," he said.

"I have to ask the question, you're recommending that we put this back to staff but an option for council is just to say, 'Stop processing this,'" said Mayor Ken Melamed. "The suggestion of moving to this (bylaw) is creating as many problems as it's trying to solve. At the end of the day, it may just be offside with a number of our existing policies and our commitments."

Melamed said that when this issue has been addressed in the past, council has said that as long as the energy is capped, homeowners and builders can use all 10,000 sq. ft. of the property, but council and staff feels this issue has not yet been fully addressed by the CBHA.

"It seems to be a very interesting, progressive and creative solution to a problem that doesn't exist in my mind," said Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, who asked one more thing from the CBHA, to explain to council who this bylaw is set to benefit.

"I'm not seeing a benefit to the municipality or to the community as a whole. None whatsoever, and what exactly is the problem that they're trying to solve with this?"

Regan said that the municipality's reaction to this report shows that they are essentially out of touch with what the market is saying. The CHBA had drafted the bylaw as a practical solution to deal with a bulk of the issues and make the problem go away.

"The market has spoken and it's saying that the vision of the house that they want is bigger than what is being allowed, and because of that there's this pressure to create this space," said Regan.

"If there wasn't a market for this bigger space then this would not be the case."

Whistler has had a policy of building more square footage than what is allowed in the zoning. Regan said that up to 80 per cent of the houses that are sold at some level, to varying degrees, have illegal construction - including attics, crawlspaces and basements, where the owners have taken liberties with the sizes of their homes to maximize the usefulness of their space.



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