Welcome to the Wild West 

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For Sale: Beautiful, sunny duplex in Rainbow. Great views of Whistler, Blackcomb and Black Tusk, full sunshine all day, solar panels to make you feel green and space-saving built-ins. Asking three times the WHA-approved asking price but what the heck, if you've got the money, anything's possible in this town. Contact Max at Pique NewsMagazine.

OK, just to be completely honest, my beautiful, sunny duplex isn't for sale. If it were, I'd only ask the WHA-approved price. But am I the only one who thinks there are two sets of rules in Tiny Town: one for you and me and the rest of the workerbees — in Canadian parlance, have-nots — and one for the folks for whom money has ceased to have any real meaning apart from the power it seems to impart to thumb your nose at any and all regulations, regardless of how reasonable, well thought out and generally acceptable they may be to, well, everyone else?

Used to be we had these quaint institutions that went under the general description "government," that more or less levelled the playing field by passing things called zoning regulations and bylaws. To put some teeth into those, they would issue building permits and conduct inspections as things got built. If people decided to build something other than what they had a permit for, those institutions would often make them stop building, or sometimes even make them tear down something they'd already built, because it wasn't what they were permitted to build.

The combined effect of zoning regs and bylaws, the building department who issued permits and the building inspectors who checked to make sure things were getting built correctly and according to approved plans, was, not surprisingly, that builders and people paying the bills mostly complied with those guidelines. Of course, that was a different time and, truth be told, even then really wealthy people often thumbed their noses at rules they were sure were only meant for the lesser classes, not themselves.

This smooth running machinery began to get out of calibration in Whistler, oh, before the town was even called Whistler. Squatters didn't really care much for what little zoning there may have been, but they did tread softly on the land. Nonetheless, they were dealt with efficiently, if harshly, sometimes resulting in practice sessions for the nascent fire department.

Rich folks were dealt with somewhat more gently, not infrequently with a nod and a wink. After all, squatters paid squat in property taxes whereas rich folk paid handsomely, money being, by definition, something they had a great deal of.

Squatters were also obvious. Rich folk hired skilled builders, craftsmen who were also part magician and could make things like a few thousand square feet seem to disappear quicker than you could spell check abracadabra. They made rec rooms, home theatres, guest suites, and wine cellars virtually invisible when building inspectors came around, either through carefully placed false walls or blindingly obvious, not-so-buried treasure. Inspection completed, presto! What was once invisible became visible.

Of course, that extra space was illegal... sort of. The builders knew it, the homeowners knew it and the complicit real estate agents who would sell it on to the next buyer knew it. But they knew it in a nudge, nudge, wink, wink kind of way.

But it was all OK though because everyone involved, including successive councils, just turned a blind eye. This, of course, is not to be confused with blind justice; that's a different column.


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