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ta zonings

By Amy Fendley While council has decided to put all tourist accommodation zoning applications on hold as it rethinks its policy of rezoning properties for commercial use in residential neighbourhoods, most chalet and villa operators still don’t know where they stand. May 1, 1999 was the deadline for illegal tourist operators in residential areas to comply with municipal bylaws. There are well over 100 units which have been operating "illegally" as chalets or villas. Some had taken steps toward rezoning to become "legal" operations, but none had been rezoned when council decided on a six-week moratorium to re-evaluate the whole process. Council was going to permit only a limited number of re-zonings: 15 per neighbourhood or 5 per cent of properties houses in a neighbourhood. "Council is re-evaluating their direction and is reviewing the format to see if there’s anything they can do to make this better," said Mike Kirkegaard, senior planner for the RMOW. "TA zoning has been a pretty divisive issue in this community, and council is really trying to move this forward." Nothing at this point is for certain. And as far as properties winning approval in time to be included in tour operators’ marketing plans for next winter, don’t bet on it. Whistler Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden says that during a brief discussion on the re-zoning issue last week, it appears as though council and staff is still grappling with whether to consider this a re-zoning issue, whether to re-consider issuing temporary commercial use permits, or whether to get off the "bandwagon" all together. "Some members say that it doesn’t matter how they are zoned, tourist accommodations don’t belong in neighbourhoods," says Wilhelm-Morden. "And we are waiting to see if council has any other suggestions. It’s got to come to a head shortly, it’s getting close to the end to the six week hiatus. Where we end up going is anyone’s guess." Wilhelm-Morden, who has opposed TA rezonings from the start, said: "I feel like we’re going around in circles chasing our tails and it’s a wasted, fruitless exercise. I feel sorry for the people who are caught in limbo, who have been doing everything they have been instructed to by council. It’s quite unfair." Over the past few years the municipality has considered numerous options to deal with chalets and villas. Finally councillors decided upon rezoning as a solution to enforce the existing Bylaw 303, established in 1983 to regulate commercial accommodation in residential areas of Whistler. Wilhelm-Morden says that the original decision to re-zone chalet and villa properties was because all other options didn’t work for one reason or another. "There are questions as to is there a way to improve what we’re doing," says Kirkegaard. "The answers to which, I don’t know. There are so many different interests and viewpoints at stake here, to try to boil it down is difficult at best. Everything is at a standstill and it continues to be at that point."