Proposed rezoning for Sunchaser Vacation Villas

Public hearing held to discuss rezoning, could include possible hotel use

After a public hearing full of support regarding a rezoning application for Sunchaser Vacation Villas, speculation is growing as to whether the community of Fairmont Hot Springs will soon have two accommodation resorts.

The Regional District of East Kootenay held a public hearing recently to hear the public’s questions and concerns regarding rezoning three of the buildings to RES-3 zoning.

Currently, the 6,000, 7,000, and 8,000 blocks of the property are zoned RES-4 resort core zone. By changing the zoning to R3, the property would have the following permitted uses: golf club house, tourist accommodation industries including ski lodge, hotel and motor hotel, motel, tourist court, helipad, multiple family dwelling, two family dwelling, central check-in facility.

During the public hearing held on Monday, May 1st, 14 members of the Fairmont community asked a variety of questions regarding how this rezoning would change parking requirements and if there would be access to the properties from the highway.

Representatives of Carthew Registry Services, the applicant of the rezoning application, stated they do have the capacity for additional parking on the property. RDEK representatives stated that access to the highway would have to go through the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, not the regional district.

The RDEK received five letters prior to the public hearing, two in support of the rezoning application and three opposed. Common concerns the opposed brought forward pertained to increased traffic and noise, difficulty for owners of timeshares to control their asset, and guest of a hotel using the pool.

Much of the concern was in regards to if the property owners Northwynd Resort Properties decided to use the three buildings to develop a hotel resort. Kirk Wankel, chief executive officer for Northwynd, declined to comment when asked by the Echo if a hotel was in the plans for the development.

“The realignment of the timeshare resort is to shrink the timeshare resort to its operational capacity and to utilize the remaining buildings in a different fashion and this opens up more flexibility into what those buildings can be used for,” said Wankel.

He stated they have been working on addressing the concerns with the timeshare resort going back to 2013 and the rezoning is part of that realignment process. He went on to address the residents of Fairmont’s concerns over parking within the property saying he does not see how change of use would lead to increase in usage of cars.

“The existing use of the buildings as timeshare and timeshare on the basis that they can be fully occupied and have been fully occupied in past years over the past 20 years so I don’t see how any change in use,” said Wankle.

As for the development of further business on the property, Andrew McLeod, planning & development services manager for the RDEK, stated in an email that nothing specific has been proposed to his knowledge, but the owners would be allowed to develop in according with the RES-3 regulations.

With the potential for a new competitor in town, president& CEO of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort Pascal van Dijk is optimistic of the development.

“In general the way I feel about it is a lot of the Sunchaser Villa buildings have been sitting empty for a few years now and that is never a good situation to have buildings sitting empty,” said van Dijk. “When Sunchaser was still operating at its full extent with all of their units occupied that was a lot of people staying in Fairmont and those people are utilizing our hot spring pools, our restaurants, our ski hill in the winter time, our golf courses. So we definitely felt the decline in occupancy in those buildings and seeing those buildings to hotel rooms and hopefully occupied again I think will be the end of that.”

He stated that seeing some people occupy those units again will have a positive impact on the resort overall.

“Of course I’m not naive, it also means some competition for us where we also operate a hotel. But in the end I still think the net impact is still positive for Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, for Fairmont Hot Springs as a community and even for the Columbia Valley because the more people that can stay in the Columbia Valley, the better off we all are,” said van Dijk.

The RDEK board will now take into consideration the letters submitted and comments made at the public hearing and make a decision to either approve or decline the rezoning application.