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Council supports rescinding ban on second unit STAs; will review after one year

UPDATE AUG 13: The motion to rescind the ban on short-term rentals in second units was supported by council.

Councillor Jamie Forrester explained his original intent was not to ban existing second units, or those in the works, but to look to exclude future use, especially in light of new provincial legislation that basically eliminates the maximum size for second units on a property.

“There seems to be some confusion about what the intent of my motion was,” stated Forrester. “My concern is closing up some of the loopholes… My goal is to stop the building of more STAs in the future.”

Council two years ago expressed strong concerns about granny suites becoming STAs, said Forrester. “We heard at that time, ‘Maybe we’ll look at that’; ‘It might be a good time later on’; and that time has come, and passed. And here we are.”

Several councillors agreed with concerns that maximum size could become a concern, especially in rural areas, but it was noted the second units would still fall under last fall’s STA rules for four bedroom maximums on properties, and new construction would also be governed by other building factors already in place.

Planner Paul Walsh stated he made notes to include the issue in the one-year evaluation and review of short-term accommodations in the County. He noted large second units have not yet been reported as an issue in the municipality, though there may be a few out there.

Mayor Ferguson, echoed other councillors stating. Ferguson missed the planning meeting as he was stuck on Hwy 401 for hours.

“The arguments put forth by members of council have been well thought-out, well-considered and certainly well-articulated,” he said. “A few words really struck me over the past two weeks – contradictory, misunderstanding, credibility – and I am not in favour of decisions made on the fly; they lead to misunderstanding, contradictory opinions and certainly affect our credibility.

“Without public consultation and listening to what constituents want to express, we are not in a position to make informed decisions… We do have the opportunity to review the process after 12 months.”

County staff seek sober second thought on second unit STA ban

AUG 11 – County staff will recommend council rescind its ban on short-term rentals in second units made hastily last month at a planning meeting with no prior public notice – in a bid to help increase long-term rental availability.

Staff, in a report for Tuesday night’s council meeting, state the removal violates the Planning Act requiring public consultation and does not conform to the Official Plan Amendment already approved for short-term accommodations.

The motion, states the report, “proposes a fundamental change to the published proposed zoning bylaw amendment for second dwelling units that was not previously identified in any prior notice of the public meetings, nor addressed in any staff report.”

The report before council Tuesday night states that if council wants to continue with the proposed amendment, in order to comply with the requirements of the Planning Act and to ensure public input, “both staff and the municipal solicitor strongly recommend a new notice be issued of the proposal to prohibit second dwelling units from being used as short-term accommodation units.”

The report, prepared by Cristal Laanstra, Planning Coordinator, Policy, states “it is essential that Motion CW-273-2019 be rescinded prior to the issuing of public notice. In this way, it is clear that the issue under consideration has ‘a clean slate’ and that there has been no predetermination of the matter made by council.”

In addition to concerns with public consultation, staff note the amendment is not consistent with other zoning bylaw provisions approved for STAs in October, 2018.

“The inconsistencies within the bylaw introduce confusion for both the public and staff as we begin implementation of the larger program,” said Laanstra.

If council decides to proceed with the motion, further changes to the proposed zoning amendment will be required to address the inconsistencies.

Last year staff were requested to review STAs prior to addressing second dwelling units. Following a lengthy process, second unit dwellings were identified as one of the preferable methods of accommodating STAs in the municipality as it required landowners to use the subject land as their principal residence.

“This form of STA is favourable as it reduces ‘dark streets’, requires STA operators to be present and enforce occupancy, noise, etc., without the need for municipal enforcement,” Laanstra stated.

By removing the ability of operators to use second dwelling units as STAs, a resident must either operate a Bed and Breakfast, or list their whole home as an STA and live elsewhere.

“Public consultation for short-term accommodations significantly favoured STAs with operators living on-site, rather than whole home rentals.”

Dale Mugford, of Consecon, will be glad to see a reversal of the decision. In a deputation ready to bring to council Tuesday night, he shares staffs’ concerns and agrees second dwellings do not deplete housing stock, and provide for responsible hosting practices.

If the new bylaw moves forward anyway, Mugford and his wife fear they would be out some $80,000 now and more in the future.

“Since early spring, acting on council’s previously passed regulations, we have invested over $80,000 in permitted renovations, as well as a dedicated septic bed and tank to ensure that our
second unit would meet or exceed all building code and county bylaw requirements, and be eligible for short term accommodation,” his deputation states.

If denied a license he notes they would face immediate and significant financial impact and ongoing and future “loss of a potential income that could well exceed a million dollars in their lifetime.”

“We thought our scenario would be a model example of how short-term accommodation can be a benefit to both property owners and the county at large,” he continues. “While we have been told that having been prior permitted to create the second unit we would not be denied a license, we strongly suggest you reconsider this recent reversal of course.”

The Mugfords, who also rent a long-term unit in Picton, note they do not appreciate any legislative body attempting to decide who can stay on their property and for how long.

“Absent any other bylaw infringements, what does it matter whether someone stays for six months, six weeks, or six days? An agenda to increase the availability of long-term accommodations should not be a bylaw downloaded onto homeowners to fulfill.”

The October 2018 new rules defining properties able to be licenced this fall included residences used as rentals before October 2018; new ones subject to a 15 per cent rule (no more than 15 per cent of homes in an area can be used for short-term rentals); and properties with a permanent resident (bed and breakfast).

Inspections must also meet requirements including insurance, building codes, fire safety, parking and adequate space.

Applications for licenses are expected to begin in the fall with no enforcement until December 2019.

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  1. Dale Mugford says:

    Thanks Dennis. Me too— I want the county to be a great place to live, work, raise a family, or retire, or start a business. I trust that council will review the facts and make decisions based on what’s in everyone’s best interests to the best of their ability. If the data shows that second units are becoming detrimental, I would support discontinuing their use as STA.

    But as councillors pointed out at the meeting tonight, the data currently shows the opposite— that they mitigate the whole-home rental issues, and support affordable housing.

    Personally, my wife and I doubt we could afford to stay here if we can’t supplement our income with rental income from the STA. We have a long term unit, but it unfortunately is now costing us more than we receive in income from it.

  2. Chuck says:

    As I said. RESCINDED!

  3. Dennis Fox says:

    Thanks Dale for your comments – I will be interested to see what impact these changes will have across the county and over time.

  4. Chuck says:

    I think this banning of short term rentals in second units will be reversed tomorrow night. It was a poor decision at the planning meeting.

  5. Dale Mugford says:

    Dennis, your points around zoning are well taken. In this case however, the county already decided through bylaw and zoning that second units where the primary unit is owner occupied were an acceptable (preferable) form of accommodation for short term use.

    The issue I take currently is that they are now attempting (outside of the proper process) to ban that now. We acted on passed bylaws, and they’re changing them AGAIN.

    The issues you highlighted that come along with rental units are of course real issues. “increased traffic/parkig, increased infrastructure use and increased population – neither the roads nor watermains were designed to carry – and neither the renter and landlord are paying their way”.

    We sincerely think that our approach with a second unit mitigates most if not all of the undesired aspects of rental units, but allows us to pay our bills.

    – we have ample private parking on our property;
    – we are on our own well and septic;

    We will be assessed higher property taxes as a result of our improvements, and will be paying our fair share. In addition, the county will likely apply a tax for rentals at some point, and we have paid over $1500 for renovation permits, and will be paying yearly licensing fees as well.

    Tourism is and will continue to be a vital part of the County’s economic ecosystem— and there are plenty of issues to deal with as a result. As a resident myself, I can see both sides very clearly. My wife and I are hoping to supplement our income and afford to stay here, we both do not directly benefit from the tourism economy in our daily work.

  6. Dennis Fox says:

    Every home owner has a right to enjoy their property – but there are rules to follow. The purpose of zoning by-laws is to protect them from changes in property uses – like changing from a residential use to a commercial one – zoning is also a way of protecting neighbourhoods and areas from uses outside of what that zoning allows. The notion that a property owner can do whatever they want to their property is a dream – that has never been the case. This is why by-laws exist – to set out the rules of ownership. No one has more rights than an other when it comes to property use – this is why zoning also exist.

    Frankly, I am tired of seeing neighbourhoods being over-run with rental units, resulting in increased traffic/parkig, increased infrastructure use and increased population – neither the roads nor watermains were designed to carry – and neither the renter and landlord are paying their way, nor are they contributing to the betterment of our society. Renting in PEC has become a money grab and nothing more. This is not called progress by any standard.

  7. Phil Norton says:

    Cases like the Mugfords point out that Council has not considered every possible scenario that could lead to a significant lawsuit against the municipality, that is, the taxpayers. Sounds like we could potentially be on hook for “millions of dollars” of lost revenue by imposing these rules. As the Mugfords say, rights are being taken away from citizens to do what they want with their property. I would hope that longtime residents and homeowners would receive preferential treatment if we decide to open a short-term accommodation over the speculators from outside who have already capitalized and saturated the allowable 15 percent market.

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