With complaints regarding short-term rental accommodations (STRA) on the rise, Mayor Karin Terziano put a motion before councillors at their Feb. 24 general committee meeting proposing that staff investigate stronger enforcement measures as well as limits on the number of units that can be licensed.
The motion, which was carried by committee, directs staff to bring a report to the next regular council meeting with recommendations for the following:
“-investigating stronger enforcement regulations; including the potential to suspend licenses when complaints are received or for those who don’t comply;
-limiting the total number of units licensed by the municipality;
-adding a limit on the number of units one owner can licence;
-density of Short Term Rental Accommodation properties.”
The Town implemented a short-term rental accommodation licensing program in 2020.
“I feel like [complaints about short-term rental accommodations] are non-stop in my world and I think it’s time to do something about it,” Terziano told councillors. “We developed a bylaw…and now it’s time to tweak it and make it work a little bit better.”
Councillors discussed the need to consider density of STRAs, which could result in a maximum percentage of properties on a lake or within a community that would be permitted to be short-term rental accommodations, as well as a maximum number for the municipality as a whole.
Deputy Mayor Nancy Alcock also raised concerns about absentee STRA owners and the need to distinguish those properties from owners who just rent space in their own home. “I’d love to see the distinction between those who are just renting out rooms in their homes versus those that it’s a business,” she said. “Maybe there are different rules. That’s where I hear more complaints from people.”
Councillor Jason FitzGerald said he’d like to see “enforcement with a little more teeth to it.”
Regarding complaints, Councillor Brian Thompson wanted to know how the legitimacy of complaints is determined.
Director of development services, Kirstin Maxwell, replied that “every complaint is investigated to determine whether or not it would be considered valid or if it’s vexatious amongst neighbours, and if it is a valid complaint the administrative penalty is levied against the property and a strike is laid.” Three valid non-concurrent complaints lodged against a property can result in its licence being revoked. The property could be re-licensed, but only following a review from the Town’s administrative penalty committee.
According to a separate staff report presented at the general committee meeting, to date staff have
received 135 STRA applications. Ninety-three licences have been issued, nine applications
have been denied for not being in compliance with the bylaw or zoning allowances, and the
remainder are still under review. The report acknowledged that some short-term rental accommodation owners may have been reluctant to license their properties last year due to uncertainty about whether or not they would be able to operate during the pandemic.
Staff have been directed to bring a report with recommendations to the next regular council meeting, which is scheduled for March 22, 2021.
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