A $35/night stay in Whistler is tough to find.
That is why Mayor Ken Melamed wants to ensure that Whistler’s only campsite continues to offer affordable options to visitors.
The question of affordable overnight accommodation came up at Monday night’s council meeting during an application to rezone the Riverside Campground.
Proponents seek to change the focus of the campground from tented camping to recreational vehicle (RV) camping, as well as add a Scandinavian-style day spa.
Melamed is concerned that dropping the number of tent sites from 30 to 16 takes away from Whistler’s only cheap overnight accommodation.
A night on a tenting campsite currently costs $25 in the winter and $35 in the summer. Comparatively, a night on an RV site costs $45 in the winter and $50 in the summer.
“The initial rezoning (in 1999) was to provide affordable accommodation to visitors,” said Melamed.
“And yes, times change and demographics change and needs change, but we don’t have another campsite close to Whistler Village that provides that option to people.”
Riverside Campground is a 152,000 square metre parcel about 1.2 kilometres from the village, bordering Lost Lake Park and Mons Road.
Approximately two thirds of the property is covered with trees. The other third of the property contains 66 RV sites, 30 tent sites, 14 guest cabins, washroom facilities and an administration building with a restaurant and a games room.
Councillor Tim Wake said he is not sure many visitors currently take advantage of the tenting sites.
“I think it would be interesting to get the numbers from the proponents on their occupancy rates on the current campsite,” said Wake.
“I think that the numbers will show that, apart from a few weekends, the demand really is not there.”
The Riverside Campground is Whistler’s only tenting camping and RV site.
The initial zoning application for the campground was submitted in 1996. Proponents obtained a development permit in 1999 and opened the campsite the following year.
A new joint rezoning application was brought to council in April 2007, seeking to change permitted uses and densities particularly in relation to the second phase of development, on the east side of Fitzsimmons Creek. The proposal is to add yurts and to build a spa to the northeast corner of the site.
First and second reading to the rezoning application was finally granted on Monday night, with Mayor Melamed being the only council member opposed.
“I didn’t really notice a whole lot of change from when it was last before us, yet at that time council made a whole lot of recommendations,” said the mayor, citing concerns with an ambiguous energy footprint, a low green building standard, an unclear request from the fire chief to pave the campground’s alternate fire route, and no explanation of why ground source heating was not being proposed.
He later added: “I don’t think we’ve respected the intentions of the council of the day when they adopted this. I think we have moved significantly away from that.”
Wake voiced similar concerns regarding the project’s environmental standards, saying that the application’s proposal to build to the R2000 standards is a “pretty low standard.”
The proposed Le Scandinave Spa that would be built on site would focus on hot and cold-water therapies and include steam rooms, hot tubs, natural pools, saunas and therapeutic massage services.
A public hearing for the Riverside Campground proposal should be scheduled in the near future.