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Draft STA bylaws to council June 25 for final approval

Prince Edward County’s short-term accommodation (STAs) bylaws will come to council at month end for final approval.

Neil Carbone, Director of Community Development and Strategic Initiatives, presented the draft licencing, administrative penalties and property standards, fees and charges bylaws to a special committee of the whole meeting Thursday night.

Council in 2017 asked staff to create a plan in response to rapid proliferation of STAs creating an adverse impact on neighbourhoods, housing supply and affordability, along with nuisance and safety issues.

Recognizing tourism and the accommodation sectors are important to the County’s economy and to the livelihoods of residents, the plan was designed to strike a balance that was no burden to the tax payer but addresses community needs without being cost-prohibitive for operators.

Council’s gallery was filled with residents, many in support of the new bylaws, or at least parts of them; and those who felt Bed and Breakfast operations where the owner is present, should not be included.

Susan Wallis, Harold Bratten and Karen Orme spoke on behalf of the 45 accommodation members of the new Bed and Breakfast Association of Prince Edward County.

“We are asking the County’s support in excluding traditional BnBs from the proposed short-term accommodations bylaw licencing draft,” said Wallis. “Traditional BnBs are not the reason why this legislation was created. It’s not that we’re saying licencing is not necessary. BnBs are simply not the cause of it and shouldn’t have to pay the fees to fund a licencing program to address issues being caused by other STAs. (whole home, owner absent).”

Several comments from the audience supported the call for exclusion of BnBs and several councillors also bounced around variations, led by councillor Jamie Forrester who suggested they be dropped from the licencing, but still called to follow rules related to penalties and density populations. He suggested he may bring that idea back before council when it meets June 25 to approve the bylaws. He also disagrees with home inspections noting insurance companies already do that work in most cases.

Joy Vervoort, a resident of Sophiasburgh, spoke in support of the regulations as an important first step in the control of STAs and ensuring current ones meet standards of fire and building code compliance.

“I support our municipality’s desire to balance the needs of our community through the promotion of economic development and tourism, while addressing the impacts related to the proliferation of short-term rental business enterprises.”

She said the impacts include the increased housing crisis, depletion of housing stock, adverse effects on affordability of housing for local residents, the loss of diversity in the community, young families and artists and the average worker who can’t compete with rent the vacationers are willing to pay; the annoyance caused by increased traffic in local neighbourhoods as well noise and parking issues for adjacent home owners during the busy tourism season and the “changes in atmosphere in the local neighbourhoods where the STAs are clustered.”

Brian Barber, of Wellington, told council he felt penalized with licensing that links the status of a residence to the property and not the property owner, applying to owner-absent STAs.

He said it disadvantages home owners like himself who are not providing rentals but live in an area as he does, that are dense with rentals.

“I understand grandfathering existing homeowners but their status should be lost with the property and not sold as a valuable privilege which goes along with the property in perpetuity.”

That system, he said, only diminishes property values of homes like his that have not been rentals and cannot be rentals under a new density bylaw… “This strategy is penalizing residental home owners who do not want to rent their properties… and still depletes housing stock.”

Carbone had explained in his overview of the draft regulations that many residents expressed concern that the County cannot withhold licences from pre-existing whole home STAs when the property changes hands and is in an area where maximum densities have been exceeded.

The Municipal Act states a municipality cannot refuse to grant a licence by reason of the location of a business if that business was being lawfully carried on at that location at the time the bylaw requiring the licence came into force.

“In other words, licenses cannot remove land use rights; a grandfathered STA retains that status regardless of ownership changes.”

He did note the County’s official plan stipulates 24 months of discontinued use before a property loses its legal non-conforming (grandfathered) status.

He expects there will be attrition in whole home rentals over time and looks forward to studying data created over the next two years.

“Council could decide to put a cap on new whole home STAs but staff would not recommend it at this time,” he said. “One of the principles behind this whole program was that to a certain extent, market forces would help to balance things, demand and supply, the types of visitors, the price points, the type of accommodations and experiences will change over time. Also we know it’s an important part of the economy and if we are controlling the issues that are most serious, which I think we are doing through the proposed regulations, we don’t want to lump potentially positive accommodation operations that are demanded by our ecomony and prevent them from existing… A whole lot more thought would have to go into that.”

Next steps include ratification at the June 25 council meeting. Staff, Carbone said, are ready to implement the program. The licence application window could open by late summer 2019 with a grace period for enforcement ending Dec. 31, 2019.

Based on the volume of licences, the grace period may be extended past Jan. 1, 2020 if necessary.

The full reports and rules are available on the County’s website.

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  1. James says:

    This by-law should have been focused on the many non-resident STA’s who own one and sometimes as many as nine properties in PEC.

    People need to rethink the affordable housing argument. There is no such thing in PEC. A quick search of homes for sale or rent will prove that one out. Without full time well paying jobs people can’t afford to live in PEC. That leaves self employed or retirees. If this by-law does increase housing stock expect those houses to go for a premium as most of them have been substantially updated for rental as an STA and they will be grandfathered as you can’t regulate a use out of existence.

    My neighbour use to rent a house out year round but time and again was stiffed on rent. Who in their right mind would even consider that option as a property owner today?

    There is another category of STA in PEC that counts on that income to make living here affordable. These folks live here year round and rent out during the peak period in the summer. Many have been doing this long before Airbnb came along. These residents keep it in The County year round. Why are they being lumped in with speculators from away? Somehow, the city of Toronto could account for this owner status by allowing up to 180 rental nights per year for an owner renting their primary residence.

    I commend Staff and Council for trying to address this but they have failed with this by-law as it is written.

  2. Emily says:

    So a home owner who doesnt operate an STA in an over density area is disadvantaged as the absentee home owners are grandfathered thus carrying a larger resale value. That just isn’t right or fair!

  3. Chris Keen says:

    Prior to the introduction of STA regulations, it is my understanding that people who were operating B&Bs in their owner-occupied homes were offering a legal service. People who bought homes, did not occupy them, and rented them out on a short-term basis were not. They were/are operating a commercial business on properties not zoned for this purpose. How is that “lawfully being carried on” as Mr. Carbone states? These businesses were operating illegally and the problems this caused is the whole reason the STA regulations are being debated.

    Unlike Toronto which has banned rentals unless the owner resides in the home full time, the County decided to grandfather the practice of whole-home rentals on a short-term basis – in effect making an “illegal” practice legal. Under these circumstances, I would think the County is quite within its rights to deny this continued use when these homes are sold by their present owners.

  4. Argyle says:

    I hope that STAs that continually violate occupancy rates, noise complaints etc are reported by neighbours and the violations are enforced by county. The county needs to be serious about regulating and enforcing the rules…….

  5. doug says:

    I you are going to operate a business similar to a motel or hotel you should have to follow the same rules as they do since they have spent a lot of money providing their services.

  6. ChrisW says:

    The disappointment for me is that despite the impressive amount of work the County has put into these bylaws and Plan, the existing 900 or so STAs are exempted. (Except for the fees). Do I have this right?
    There is an STA very close to me that routinely busts the occupant rule.

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