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chalet accommodation

Municipal staff will have to fine-tune the details but most of Whistler council wants to find a way to accommodate chalet, villa and homestay operations in residential areas. That was the message after a public workshop Monday morning and a council meeting Monday evening, where councillors voted 3-1 to instruct staff to continue working on regulations to legalize those types of tourist accommodation. It was a result which likely didn’t satisfy anyone. Residents of neighbourhoods where chalet style accommodations are currently operating illegally were upset. Some pension and bed and breakfast owners wondered how they were going to compete. Tour operators and property managers, who weren’t present, may not like the proposed regulation that chalet and villa accommodation licences be limited to one year. Under the proposed regulations, after their one-year permit expires property owners would go to the bottom of the list of applicants for Temporary Commercial Use Permits (TCUPs). The intention is to provide a turnover of stock. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly called the temporary permits "an opportunity" and suggested everyone who owns a single family house should have the opportunity to apply for a TCUP. "We’re trying to let the marketplace know we’re interested," O’Reilly said. But at the same time the municipality will set limits on numbers and standards for quality. O’Reilly suggested limiting TCUPs to one or two years is going to discourage some people; those who want to get into tourist accommodation for the long term are free to apply for rezoning to a pension or B&B. The municipality has been wrestling with the issue of chalet and villa accommodation, both of which are illegal at the moment, for the past eight months. Through two public information meetings the Whistler Resort Association and Intrawest have let it be known that the business brought in by tour operators — primarily from Britain — who require chalet-style accommodation is a significant market for the resort. Property management firms, which include large companies as well as individuals who manage one or two houses, have also made it clear that villa-style accommodation is an important market. Chalet-style accommodation generally involves "chalet girls" catering a house that is booked, bedroom by bedroom, through a tour operator. Transportation is generally provided for the guests. There are approximately 80 chalet operations in town. Villa accommodation generally refers to a home rented by a family or a group where all the people are known to each other. Villa accommodations are generally self-catered. Homestay operations provide up to three guest rooms in a residential building that is the primary residence of the owner/operator. Homestays are often associated with some type of language or educational camp and guests must stay a minimum of four consecutive nights. The municipality’s proposed regulations would limit the number of TCUPs to 155, which would be broken down to 100 for villas, 50 for chalets and five for homestays. It is further recommended that no more than 20 per cent of each total be accommodated in any one neighbourhood. A review committee is proposed to examine "controversial" permit applicants. Successful applicants would also be required to pay WRA fees and to maintain their buildings. O’Reilly said later the temporary permits are not a permanent solution to the issue, but suggested the current demand for chalet accommodation may not remain steady. "I know there’s a demand for villa accommodation, but I think chalets may vary as our popularity with Brits fluctuates," O’Reilly said. He also suggested that future subdivisions that include Tourist Accommodation zoning may provide some of the answer. Councillor Ken Melamed was concerned about Whistler losing established B&Bs and pensions, as it’s often easier to rent them to a tour company for a season. "If those operators are going to let their business lapse and go to chalet or villa style accommodation, I think we’re losing," Melamed said. "What’s the incentive to maintain a pension or B&B when tour operators can guarantee you a whole season?" Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, citing the integrity of neighbourhoods, opposed allowing chalet-style accommodations to continue under any circumstances. "I don’t see how we’ve addressed the threat to community by limiting the numbers in neighbourhoods," she said. "People who have invested (in their homes) have a right to certainty in their neighbourhoods. This procedure is not as public or as in-tune to neighbourhoods as zoning." Wilhelm-Morden acknowledged the need to diversify types of accommodation but suggested it be done according to sound planning principles, including zoning. She also suggested that with some neighbourhoods strata titled and others governed by land use contracts, both of which may prohibit tourist accommodation, most of the chalet operations would end up concentrated in White Gold, Alta Vista and Brio, rather than be spread out around the valley. Councillors Ted Milner and Kristi Wells, both of whom were at the morning workshop, were not present to vote on the proposal at Monday evening’s council meeting.