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Dancing at weddings gets controversial

Over 60 people show up to lengthy Nicklaus North public hearing



To dance or not to dance - that was the question Tuesday night when over 60 people packed into MY Millennium Place to debate whether dancing at weddings on Nicklaus North Golf Course should be allowed.

Residents living in the 18 units on the top levels of the clubhouse are against the plan, saying the noise already coming from weddings at the golf course is unbearable in the summer months.

But golf club members argue weddings help bolster revenue and put heads in beds throughout the resort municipality. They also say that the residents should have been aware that living above a golf clubhouse would be noisy when they bought their places.

The two-hour public hearing got heated and personal - with fourteen people walking up to the podium to debate an issue that appears to have been irking both sides for almost ten years. Speakers included the wedding DJ, the golf course's general manager, the chair of the resident strata council and upset residents.

Residents have complained about noise since the clubhouse was built in 1996, although the number of complaints started to pick up in 2000.  Dancing has taken place at weddings at Nicklaus North in the past, and the golf course received three temporary permits for this in 2008. They are now applying to make the change permanent.

New management took over the golf course in 2008 and met with strata council to find ways to reduce noise. Since then, the golf course management has reduced wedding sizes from 160 to 100 guests, put up drapes to absorb sound and hired security guards.

But Nicklaus North hosts on average 25 weddings a year, and many residents say these self-imposed measures aren't enough.

"It is hard to describe the relief when a weekend comes along and there is no wedding," said clubhouse resident Ian Tamplin, also joint-owner of Town Plaza Medical Clinic.

"The noise we have had to ensure is unacceptable.... We can hear every word in the speeches, even with our double glazed windows and doors."

Former five year resident of Nicklaus North, Fire Chief Rob Whitton, who lived in the strata before the 2008 noise mitigation measures, also wrote a letter to council saying the loud noise was what caused him and his wife to eventually move.

The final straw, he wrote, was when the Prince of Saudi used the space and was allowed to race teams of huskies and snowmobiles around the course until the early house of the morning.

Many residents also said they were asked to deal with the problem "in house" instead of bringing the issue to the RCMP, which is why police records show no recent complaints.

But a large number of golf club members were also in the crowd Tuesday night. While members do not have any direct financial interest in seeing dancing allowed, they will likely see an increase in their membership fees if Nicklaus North revenues decline.

Andrew Hedley from B.C. Golf, the company that owns Nicklaus North, added there is a serious financial impact to not hosting weddings.

Nicklaus North is a recognizable brand in Whistler and is a considerable draw to the resort, he said, filling up room nights and creating additional spending throughout the resort.

Another speaker was Richard Zimmer, whose company Trax Mobile DJ Service plays music at all the weddings at Nicklaus North, as well as the majority of hotels in Whistler, totaling approximately 100 weddings a year.

He said under the new regulations, he stops playing music at Nicklaus North weddings by 11:30 p.m., and turns down the music at 10 p.m. to 80 decibels, which is as "loud as laughter."

"On occasion, I have had several complaints from brides and grooms saying, 'Why are you turning down the music?'" said Zimmer.

"In the end, Nicklaus North would always win, and I would turn down the levels. If my bride and groom are so unhappy with the service, they (Nicklaus North) are willing to pay the bill for the DJ services."

After the public meeting, Mayor Ken Melamed commented that he was surprised by the large turnout.

"It was obviously an emotional issue for both sides," said Whistler's mayor.

"Obviously the number of golf club members who turned out outnumbered the owners of property, but that is no surprise."

The municipality also received 46 letters supporting and 23 letters opposing the application - and council will debate whether to recommend the liquor license change to allow dancing during the public meeting on Tuesday, June 16.