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TA appeal too late for winter



Legitimate renters concerned that delay of court decision will affect their businesses

Despite efforts by the municipality to resolve the issue, owners of legitimate tourist accommodation in residential areas of Whistler may have to wait until spring for an appeal court ruling before authorities crack down on illegitimate operators ? companies and individual home owners renting their places out in contravention of municipal bylaws.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler started 25 legal actions against "illegal" operators in 1999, including taking a pair of Prince George dentists to court who offered their Whistler property on a short-term rental basis. The dentists argued that most of the people using their home were co-workers and friends, but admitted to renting it out nightly for periods of less than 28 days.

The municipality hoped that the outcome of that case would set a precedent that it could use to bring other so-called illegitimate operators into line.

The case was heard on Feb. 17, 2000, but it took Supreme Court justice Ian Drost until Jan. 15, 2001, to hand down his decision. He granted the municipality a permanent injunction, banning the couple from renting their home on Clifftop Lane on a short-term basis. Drost also awarded the municipality costs.

The couple appealed the decision, and a date for the appeal was expected to be set by this fall.

Typical of a case that Whistler Mayor Hugh O?Reilly says is probably one of the longest in the province?s history, a date has yet to be set.

"We?re very optimistic that the appeal will be rejected once the case is heard, and that a decision will be returned very quickly," O?Reilly said. "The last decision took too long to get, it?s one of the longest ever in B.C. history."

According to Jonathan Baker, the lawyer representing dentists Vicki Miller and Michael Rivera, the wheels are still turning.

"We?ve submitted our factum, and we?re waiting for theirs. We?ve been told to expect it in the next week. We can expect a court date three months after that. A decision should come about a month after the hearing, I should think," says Baker.

On Aug. 23 the municipal bylaw department sent a letter to the illegitimate operators that were identified, reminding them that it?s against zoning bylaws to rent their places as tourist accommodation, and warning them that the municipality is prepared to take legal action.

According to the letter: "The judgement in this case (RMOW vs. Miller and Rivera) has been appealed and it is anticipated that the appeal will be heard some time in the fall of this year. However, with the Supreme Court?s endorsement of the Municipality?s interpretation of the zoning bylaw?s provisions relating to temporary tourist accommodation, the Municipality has decided that it will now actively enforce the tourist accommodation prohibitions for those properties where enforcement proceedings had been deferred while we were awaiting the judgement of the B.C. Supreme Court."

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