Neighbours of the home lodged a complaint with the municipality after they saw workers with the Four Seasons Resort and Residences unloading dozens of mattresses into the home in late November. The house had previously functioned as a bed and breakfast, according to neighbours.
“The fact that they wouldn’t even come to the neighbourhood to say, ‘Hey, this house is now going to be this situation’ — no courtesy,” neighbour Louisa Jardine-Ourom told Global News. “Just ‘we’re going to move in 40 people.’ We actually have no idea how many people, but we counted the mattresses, 38-plus queens.”
Neighbour Peter Ourom said the home is clearly not suited to serve as a “dorm.”
But he said his primary concern was for the safety of workers who would have to commute on the Sea-to-Sky highway daily, often late at night or early in the morning.
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“On the highway, we’ve had multiple deaths over the years of commuters; housecleaners from Squamish who have died on the highway going to clean the hotels in Whistler,” he said.
He added that a major hotel like the Four Seasons should be capable of housing its workers in the community where it operates.
“A hotel in Whistler with 20-year-old, $1,000 a night, 240 rooms is using Squamish as a place for their staff housing without permits or registration or anything – it’s a little bit over the top in my opinion,” he said.
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In a statement to Global News, Four Seasons director of people and culture Katie Thompson said in a statement that no employees are currently living in the house, and the number of occupants has yet to be confirmed.
“As a seasonal resort, we provide safe and affordable housing to more than 50% of our workforce. We have a well-established employee housing model, including employee housing onsite within the resort, and in many offsite homes in the Whistler and the surrounding community,” Thompson said.
“Our housing model in Squamish aligns with our existing, well-established housing model, including addressing concerns such as safety, security, noise control and parking.”
The statement added that the company had signed a formal lease for the house, and was working with the District of Squamish to ensure it was in compliance with bylaws and zoning regulations.
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Squamish Mayor Armand Hurford said he was limited in what he could say about the issue, due to the ongoing bylaw investigation.
He said the municipality can’t control where people live and work, and that it is not unusual for Squamish residents to commute to Whistler or the Lower Mainland for work.
But he said the scale of the apparent residence “feels like something new.”
“We’ve got an extremely low vacancy rate in Squamish, somewhere under one per cent, maybe under .5 of a percentage point,” Hurford said.
“An issue such as this really highlights the need for a regional approach. Using this as an example of potential spillover from one community with unmet needs spilling into the next to meet those needs, I’m sure this is repeating itself throughout the province.”
The neighbours Global News spoke with agreed that both Squamish and Whistler are facing housing pressures, and said they sympathized with workers who need somewhere to live.
But they said they were not happy with the Four Seasons’ approach to setting up worker housing in their neighbourhood.
“What I’m finding here is a really low-class move for a high-class hotel,” Ourom said.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.