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chalet accommodations

After more than a year of debate, Whistler council has decided to scrap new proposals for regulating chalet, villa and homestay operations and enforce existing residential zoning bylaws. The move came at Monday’s council meeting following an afternoon workshop. A number of bylaws and procedures regulating chalet, villa and homestay operations were on the council agenda, but were withdrawn during the evening meeting. "It’s kind of embarrassing to go this far and then go back," Councillor Kristi Wells told a packed council chambers that was primarily filled with pension and bed & breakfast owners. "The proposal was absolutely an administrative nightmare. It just couldn’t be implemented." Council will enforce the existing residential zoning bylaws, which prohibit chalet and villa-style accommodation, starting May 1. As well, council will look at lifting the moratorium on pensions and B&Bs, consider creating specific zoning for chalets and villas and consider an amendment to the RS1 (single family residential) zoning which would permit homeowners to rent their properties for nightly accommodation to a maximum of 28 days per year. "One of the assumptions we were operating on was that we would lose the entire British market (if bylaws were enforced against chalet and villa accommodation)," Councillor Ken Melamed said. "That’s not true. "I think this new direction will be better for neighbourhoods." While pension and B&B owners have been complaining about the "illegal" chalet and villa operations for years, the municipality has been under pressure from, among others, the Whistler Resort Association and Whistler/Blackcomb, which said the British skier market that has developed in recent years represents close to $10 million. But Melamed says the whole market isn’t going to be lost with enforcement of the bylaws. A strategy will be developed to try and shift most of the British market to condos and hotels. As well, there are indications Whistler doesn’t have enough B&Bs and pensions, which is one reason for considering lifting the moratorium. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly noted that Whistler’s biggest rival for the British skier market is Banff, and the Alberta resort doesn’t allow chalet accommodations. "I apologize (for taking so long to decide on this new direction), but I think we will have a better solution," O’Reilly said. Melamed suggested the new direction may also help the employee housing situation, as some homeowners made more money renting their places to British tour operators than to employees. Those units should again become available to employees.

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