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Council approves changing STA rules

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Council Tuesday night ratified a half dozen changes to the short-term accommodation licensing program, including an official plan amendment.

Changes include the definition of primary residence STA licences into separate on-site and off-site categories, no longer allowing commercially-zoned STAs, increasing fines for operating without a licence, higher penalties for not posting a STA licence number, the refusal or revocation of a licence for non-compliance, and reducing density requirements in hamlets.

Council learned at last week’s committee of the whole meeting, that removing secondary homes from the STA licensing program required an official plan amendment and zoning bylaw change – something that requires a mandatory public meeting.

Therefore, the secondary homes portion of the STA licensing program is to come before the planning committee meeting Sept. 7.

The matter would then come back to council Sept. 13 where both the licensing bylaw (discussed at the Aug. 8 meeting) and the planning bylaw (to be discussed at the Sept.7 meeting) to be ratified.

Sept. 13 would be the date the program would begin under the new arrangement.

CAO Marcia Wallace reminded the official plan as approved by the minister, had a two-year moratorium for opening it, but the planning act does allow a council or municipality to open it early if it is municipally-initiated, as directed by council.

Wallace clarified the change to no longer allow secondary residence STAs only applies to new licences, and once the bylaws are finally passed, it does not affect any grandfathered rights in any of the other categories (i.e. grandfathered STA secondary residences can continue unaffected by the change and can continue to operate).

Mayor Steve Ferguson said he was “challenged by an official plan amendment within the two-year time period” and joined councillor Phil Prinzen in objecting to the motion. This would be the first official plan amendment since it was approved in 2021.

“I think it’s something we need to think about very carefully because of any other possible implications,” Ferguson said. “It is something that when we passed the official plan, we were quite specific about that moratorium.”

Two deputations were received from members of the public, including from Montreal resident and County businessman Anthony Lemke, and Sheryl Herle with the Licensed Short Term Accommodators of Prince Edward County. One audience comment was also received.

Their issues of concern included changes to commercially-zoned STAs, density caps, definition of the two primary residence licence types, enforcement, and clearer communications.

Lemke expressed concern about council rendering STAs in commercially-zoned properties no longer a permitted use, specifically in Wellington where he said commercially-zoned STAs have a role to play in the slow attrition of STAs in R1 zones.

“While I support entirely the idea of no new secondary residence STAs in residential zones, extending that ban to commercially-zoned properties will hamper the growth of the Main Street commercial retail in Wellington,” stated Lemke.

“By removing the possibility for STAs in commercially-zoned properties, you are damaging the ability of commercially-zoned properties to do their part in promoting a healthy commercial-residential mix in the core of our villages,” he said.

“You have created a set of municipally-protected super-properties whose grandfathered status makes them even more valuable as STAs – and largely these properties are in R1 zones. This is a mistake.”

He said the status quo is not an acceptable long-term proposition in Wellington.

“STAs overwhelming our residential core is one of the key reasons people began complaining about STAs in the first place. Far from “getting back to what we wanted in the first place” by banning STAs, you have entrenched an undesirable situation, at least in as far as Wellington is concerned.”

Lemke said there are other options to be considered, such as loosening the definition of hotel, and also to consider tourist cottages.

Sheryl Herle, speaking on behalf of the Licensed Short Term Accommodators of Prince Edward County, said they were pleased with most decisions made, but noted a few things didn’t resonate for their members.

Herle’s request was for existing density requirements to be maintained, “but interpret density calculation to include both secondary and primary residences in the numerator of the calculation.”

She questioned that with 884 licensed STAs to govern now, should the floodgate be opened for more.

“We believe density caps based on total count of licensed dwellings need to apply to any new primary residence licences.”

Herle also questioned how rules would be enforced for the two new primary residence licence types, (on-site and off-site) and the proposed off-site 45-day rule.

Her suggestion was to “drop the notion of on-site and off-site because we can’t enforce it” and to create a separate licence category to take traditional bed and breakfasts into account. She also suggests going back to allowing a primary residence to be rented only for a total of 180 days per year.

“We really need clear communication to all STA licence holders and current applicants to summarize bylaw changes, new actions required and adequate lead-time to align to the new requirements,” added Herle.

She concluded by requesting the formal creation of a Prince Edward County STA operational committee with STA owners and associated business owners as stakeholders to support staff with operational insights, decision making and process improvements.

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  1. Dennis Fox says:

    I have included a link to the Quinte News site which explains the situation in Belleville around STAs – they have approximately 100 – 200 in total, compared to PEC’s 800++. Their population is pushing 50K – twice that of The County. If this doesn’t explain the problem that has been created here, nothing will.

  2. Dan says:

    Never thought I would say this, but I agree with Tony. Lots to unpack in Wellington to fix that situation.

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