tourist accom. 

By Amy Fendley The municipality has vowed to shut down more than 100 units which have been operating as chalet or villa accommodation if they aren’t properly zoned by the end of May. But like termites under the hardwood floor, the damage may go unseen as many still operate undiscovered, unregistered tourist accommodations. Over the past few years the municipality has considered numerous options to crack-down on illegal operators. Finally administrators decided upon a solution: enforce the existing bylaw. Bylaw 303 was established in 1983 and regulates commercial accommodation in residential areas of Whistler and protects the value of commercial zoning. On March 23, 1998 council passed the recommendation that Bylaw 303 must be enforced to regulate commercial operations in residential areas and to protect neighbourhoods from illegal operators. Those wishing to operate in neighbourhoods have until May 1, 1999 to register with the RMOW. That’s if the limited percentage of tourist accommodations per neighbourhood haven’t already been exhausted. "The issue over tourist accommodations in neighbourhoods started with club cabins, but didn’t move up to the front of council’s agenda until the last couple of years," said councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. "The people who legitimately run pensions and bed and breakfasts have gone through all the various loops, WRA fees, taxes and Joe Blow two doors down has an unfair economic advantage. There’s something inequitable about it." Wilhelm-Morden says the decision to re-zone chalet and villa properties was because all other options didn’t work for one reason or another. "Whistler has succeeded because it has been very carefully planned," she said. "You run into some problems when you put tourist accommodations outside the core. Tourists are out there searching for accommodation in the neighbourhoods when occupancy in the village is less than 100 per cent." The letters have been sent, the lawyers have been hired the next step is proceeding with litigation to get injunctions to prohibit illegal operations. However, if municipal hall doesn’t know an operator exists they will continue to run their business as usual, until a neighbour squeals to shut them down. "Big buses coming into neighbourhoods in the evening and morning, dozens of cars jammed into driveways," says Wilhelm-Morden, "these things became a source of aggravation and people complain loudly. Early last June, Iver Toop, took over the Property Use Control Program for the RMOW. He has opened 145 files to-date on chalet and villa accommodations but says that he is still trying to get caught up. "Every day we open new files and contact new people and at least one quarter to half of those people, at least 500 of them, are operating illegal chalets, villas and condos," said Toop. "There are so many out there I can’t get them all." He searches for unregistered property managers on the internet, tax roll and by looking for advertisements in magazines, brochures and newspapers. He receives a lot of personal complaints and goes so far as to investigate past complaints. "The problem with people pre-booking their homes is that the people who normally live there leave, allowing new people to come up for the weekend which is generally disruptive," he said. Tim and Yvonne Manville own and operate Alta Vista Chalet Bed and Breakfast Inn. The couple have helped to spearhead the enforcement of Bylaw 303, resulting in a crackdown on illegal operators, and feel that the right steps are being taken to preserve residential areas. "I agree that running an inn is a nice way of financing a house," said Tim Manville. "But I would prefer to keep residences in the residential areas and businesses in the business areas. There’s nothing like an operator next door taking your business and not contributing anything to the community." Manville says he was very pleased when in November the Hotel Room Tax Act was amended to clarify that accommodation provided in bed and breakfast establishments and by vacation property management companies in privately-owned vacation homes (chalets, condos, cabins) was subject to hotel room tax. An exemption was made for all accommodation provided by operators offering less than four units, regardless of the type of establishment. "People have had two years to get their acts together," said Manville. "I’m not trying to cut people out of business, all I want is a level playing field. I’m encouraged by the progress the municipality has made so far, but I know a lot of people who aren’t. If the community doesn’t begin to see visible changes this May, I’ll be asking more questions." Haus-Heidi-Pension Lodge is owned and operated by the Gruetzkes. Trudy Gruetzke says she is disappointed in the system and is sick and tired of acting as bylaw for her community. "The people working on this need to be more diligent about their job," says Gruetzke. "If the tour operators can find the illegal operators why can’t the municipality. There is more to being a bylaw officer than chasing dogs."


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