Reducing residential use in village core

Council addresses impacts of long-term use

The lights of the Village core as seen from the Top of the World. Photo Dan Piccininni

One Sun Peaks businessperson has called on municipal council to stop residential use of units in the village core.

Reiner Brecht, president of Bear Country, penned a letter to Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) in November 2018 which went before council this January.

In the letter he outlined concerns with what he believes is an increase in residential use of village core units.

“The development of Sun Peaks Village was based on the principles that the village would be hotel properties or condo hotels aimed at servicing tourist visitors,” he wrote.

Brecht told SPIN it comes down to what the village should be to give tourists the best experience, including easy access to amenities and the main lift area.

“Going back to the master plan I totally agree the village should be hotel or short-term accommodation, not condos,” he said. “We have a master plan for a reason, to build the community.”

He added he’s seen a negative impact from people living in the core full time.

“It’s not just that we’re losing hotel beds in the village…we’re not just losing beds we’re losing the customers. Customers want hotel style beds in the village, not a condo, but now we’re full (in the village) from December to March. We don’t want to send people away. We want to continue to grow businesses, coffee shops, restaurants and long-term residents don’t go out every night (like nightly guests do).”

During a  council meeting on Feb. 28 councillor Darcy Alexander agreed with Brecht’s concerns.

“We’ve been seeing this problem over the years,” he said. “I think it’s a long-term issue as a community to address that.”

Alexander said there are almost 900 rooms in the village core.

“If we lose a significant number of those over time we will significantly impair our resort development.”

A report from Alex Krause, manager of planning services for the Thompson Nicola Regional District,  was presented to council during the meeting which outlined zoning in the core.

Currently, as set out in the Official Community Plan (OCP), the village core is zoned commercial core one. This means residential uses are not permitted but for two exceptions.

The first exception is an auxiliary residential dwelling unit which is a unit meant to provide business owners or staff the ability to live and work at the same location and is interpreted as one unit per business.

The second exception is tourist accommodation which allows tourist use with some owner use but prohibits residential use by anyone but the owner, meaning owners may not rent out the unit for more than four weeks consecutively.

Krause made a number of suggestions which could limit residential use in the core including prohibiting residential use by owners which would require council to redefine tourist accommodation and removing or restricting the auxiliary use for businesses.  

Should council chose to make any of the suggested changes, some strata bylaws may be impacted and strata councils could need to change their bylaws to align with municipal bylaw.

Sun Peaks’ unique resort municipality combination raises another issue with residential use in some buildings.

Krause’s report discussed the role of rental management covenants which sometimes restrict or prohibit owner use on some properties in the core.

“The terms and restrictions of the covenants vary,” he wrote. “With some explicitly limiting the amount of time an owner is permitted to use a unit for personal occupancy, while others more generally require that some units are available for rent, with no strict restrictions on owners.”

Because the covenantee is the province and not Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) or SPMRM, the local organizations  have no ability to enforce the covenants.

Alexander stated SPR has been told the covenants will be switched from the province but no changes have been made and SPR is still unlisted on new covenants.

Krause continued, writing even if SPMRM were able to take over the covenants enforcement could be a big challenge.

Other enforcement challenges for residential use include costs and staff time, he wrote, as it’s difficult to identify which units are being used as a permanent residence or rented. Additionally, should council amend the zoning bylaw to prohibit any year-round residential use, owners currently living in their units would be grandfathered. Should a unit sell the grandfathering follows the use and not the owner, meaning if new purchasers live in the unit within six months of buying the residential use would continue to be grandfathered and allowed.

Councillor Ines Popig and Mayor Al Raine each agreed it was necessary to limit the amount of people residing full time.

“Today it’s not a mega issue but if it got to 20 or 30 per cent it changes the whole nature of the village,” Raine told SPIN. “It could have a negative impact on business and I’m glad he’s (Brecht’s) raised it.

“We don’t want to bring the hammer down but we’re trying to straighten it out.”

He added other properties outside of the core with rental covenants were also becoming a challenge as owners decide not to rent despite the covenants and the provincial government has not enforced any.

“I estimate 60 per cent of people are not renting in the renting pool as required,” he said. “We need to enforce this too for more beds.

“I’m uncomfortable putting tourist zoning on all properties and not enforcing those who don’t want to rent out,” he said. “Some (residential) owners don’t want tourist accommodation or are rude to tourists (staying near them) and that makes a difference to those who are renting…I’ve asked SPR to address the issue.”

He said his personal opinion is the village isn’t the place for year round accomodation and the problem needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

“If we already have a problem why not fix the problem while it’s little. We don’t want the subtle ramifications on businesses. We had it right in the first place, that’s where tourists are supposed to be.”

Raine and the SPMRM councillors have directed staff to meet with the planning department on the zoning issues first before addressing the other’s raised by Krause and Brecht.