A draft set of business regulations aimed at the short-term tourist accommodation industry sparked a flurry of letters over the weekend and led to a jammed council chambers Tuesday.
Property managers, owners of property zoned for tourist accommodation and property marketing representatives crowded into Tuesdays council meeting after news of the draft regulations was made public around noon on Friday, Aug. 30.
Although there was little advance notice that the regulations were on councils agenda the property owners and managers organized quickly and many came from Vancouver specifically to attend Tuesdays meeting.
However, the item was only on the agenda so municipal staff could seek councils approval to call a meeting with the managers and owners affected.
That approval was granted and a meeting will be scheduled toward the end of September or early October.
But that didnt belay many peoples fears about the draft regulations. Among the powers proposed are that a municipal licence inspector could grant, refuse, suspend or cancel a business licence without a council hearing for a breach of bylaws.
The draft regulations would also create three classes of property management business property marketing, vacation property rental and residential property management and each would require a separate business licence. Prior to issuing a business licence each business would have to disclose information about their properties and a licence inspector could demand additional information, including names and contact information of parties booking properties.
Councillors Kristi Wells and Nick Davies supported staffs request to call a meeting with property owners and managers to discuss the draft regulations, but expressed concerns with some of the details.
"I think we can stop the bad apples without such harsh measures," Wells said. "I think this crosses the line in a few places. Im not comfortable with it."
Davies said much of the language in the draft regulations is ambiguous and he was concerned about the disclosure powers.
"I dont know if I would call it an invasion of privacy, but when we talk about requiring lists of guests it implies we may be calling them," Davies said.
"I dont think we should drag our guests into our own issues."
There are residential properties in Whistler that are zoned for nightly rentals. However, the basic residential zoning prohibits short-term rentals, defined as less than 30 days.
The municipality has been attempting to enforce those bylaws for several years. In the one case that went to court the judge ruled that Whistlers residential zoning bylaw prohibits nightly rentals. That ruling was upheld on appeal.
Earlier this year the municipality suspended the business licence of AlluraDirect.com, a Web-based lodging and vacation services company for facilitating the rental of residentially zoned properties on a nightly basis.