Editor's Note

Level the playing field

 | March 13, 2012

Nightly chalet rentals in the residential areas of Sun Peaks have been in existence since the dawn of this great resort community and were the main reason many of the first homeowners in the resort purchased their properties. Marketed as “rentable,” many buyers that bought building lots back in the day did so to fit their family’s skiing needs while offseting their chalet mortgages through rentals. This also opened up much needed tourism bed units while Sun Peaks Resort was breaking ground. Many of our returning visitors actually rented chalets in residential areas long before the village core hotels and other tourist accommodation were even built.

Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Jump 20 years forward and a lot, pun intended, has changed.

The Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality has now hired the Whistler Centre for Sustainability to visit this, now contentious, zoning bylaw issue of nightly chalet rentals in residential neighbourhoods, as it has in communities like Sechelt, Tofino, Harrison, Osoyoos and Fernie, just to name a few.
So, now that the community has embarked on this path of tourist accommodation sustainability, what are the answers? Personally I think as a world-class resort community we need to offer all levels of accommodation to the visitors of Sun Peaks, be it a hotel room, a rental condo or a sprawling chalet on a residential street that sleeps 25, and all these purveyors of pillows should have to play on the same field.

To legislate our guests out of accommodation options through zoning bylaws is marketing suicide in my mind and will only lead to fewer guest visits to this great resort town. While there are as many questions as answers, I think the answers will be really quite clear once all the issues are on the table. All accommodation providers should pay the same “pillow tax” as each other to level the “resort marketing fee” playing field and things like non-refundable peace bonds, guest rental contracts and clear, concise and enforceable zoning and noise bylaws would allow many of our rental chalet accommodation pioneers to continue in residential areas. These changes would hopefully appease those individuals that feel slighted by the homeowners they consider operating outside the current bylaws, ambiguous as they may be.

We need to offer every possible accommodation option to all our guests, while allowing others peace of mind where they live, all the while still maintaining an equitable balance of fees and taxes across the board within the accommodation sector.