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Council seeks report on STA re-openings; wants map showing legal sites

A map from AirDNA May 13 shows 578 active rentals in Prince Edward County using data from airbnb (72 per cent) Vrbo (12 per cent) and 16 per cent listed on both.

Prince Edward County council would like municipal staff to prepare a report to repeal and replace the current short-term accommodations bylaw with one that “provides adequate definitions” to allow the municipality to start a phased re-opening of the program to new applications. The directive moves to council’s May 25 meeting for approval.

Councillor Kate MacNaughton led the charge to replace the bylaw but citing calls from citizens, clarified “the desire of council is not to ban existing whole home STAs, and not to stop the entire program, but to re-investigate how the program lives and breathes” and allow a phased-in approach.

Council last September, paused granting new STA licences pending a review of the program. In March and April, motions to reopen licensing to allow new applications for grandfathered licences failed, and under procedural rules, cannot be discussed again until at least June 22.

Chief Administrative Officer Marcia Wallace clarified that council, when it can re-visit talks on pausing licences, will be doing it under the bylaw framework in place, and with all the risks the staff report before them outlines.

“If we want to prioritize the more desired owner-occupied, and B&Bs,” said councillor John Hirsch, “we need to amend.”

In the meantime, council also directed staff to create and publish a map of all licensed STAs, to be available for public access.

The map, said Todd Davis, Director of Community Services, would be useful to help the public identify properties that are not licensed and help to focus on enforcement – especially when they are dealing with 100 to 150 calls on a weekend.

“If you’re operating a business the public should know where you are. It’s a good thing for the community and may help with nuisance complaints where people assume it’s an STA, and it is not.”

He noted STA owners who have resistance or refusal toward the licencing were expected all along, and the department would be surprised if it received 90 to 100 per cent of fully licenced businesses.

Following legal advice, staff, in its report to council, had advised the municipality to wait to make major bylaw changes to the short-term accommodations program until after the STA housing market study is completed, likely in the fall.

The report stated substantial changes to the current STA bylaw – such as a cap on the number of licenses to be issued, changes to defining types of STAs, or defining B&Bs from other STAs or adding new requirements to properties would require rewriting of the bylaw and cannot be effectively implemented with simple amendments.

“Waiting until after the completion of the market study would enable the municipality to enact evidence-based solutions that council has previously committed to, and shown enthusiasm for in their discussions; and ones that can be more carefully designed around supporting Prince Edward County’s housing and long-term rental market,” the report states.

In February council discussed ending or modifying grandfathered status for existing STAs, requiring license numbers to be posted on booking platforms to help root out illegal operators and placing an overall cap on the number of STAs. In April, council approved the STA market study to to be completed by September.

The staff report also recommended minor updates to the STA licensing bylaw to address concerns from the County’s fire and bylaw departments.

These changes include permitting enforcement of STA bylaw standards, allowing the fire department to inspect a licensed property if there is a violation that concerns a missing smoke/carbon monoxide alarm, and clarifying the responsibilities of the administrative hearing officer with respect to appealing licencing decisions.

Staff reported the two major changes of highest priority concerning the STA program are grandfathering of STAs and the separation of Bed & Breakfast (B&Bs) into their own licencing stream.

The report notes legal counsel advised staff that while the rights conveyed by grandfathering are real and cannot be ignored (barring a change in usage, or the scale/intensity of land usage), that the right to continue usage does not equate to the right to ignore other applicable bylaws and legislation—that is, the municipality is free to place other obligations upon grandfathered properties, so long as they do not infringe on their grandfathered usage.

“And while these obligations may not affect the housing market, the municipality could enact some requirements upon grandfathered properties to root out repeated problem operators. Consider Niagara-on-the-Lake’s (NOTL) “Good Neighbour” Agreement”, which must be signed as a precondition for any STA license, and mandates that an STA owner can lose their license for contraventions of the noise and nuisance by-law, renting out rooms other than those listed, etc.”

With respect to B&Bs, a common comment from councillors, stakeholders, and County residents has been that B&Bs should not be subject to the same regulatory burden that whole-home or owner-occupied STAs are. Prince Edward County’s history as a cottage destination and large amount of B&Bs is long and well-documented, and council has no desire to disrespect that tradition.”

 

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  1. angela says:

    Great to support the wine industry but not at the expense of local residents who are surrounded by STAs and families who cannot find rental accommodations. It’s time we stop worrying so much about what’s good for tourism and the wine growers and start thinking about what is happening to our way of life in the county.

  2. CountyProud says:

    I don’t think anyone is saying run the STAs out of town, they do indeed serve a portion of visitors. However, the time has come to be more mindful of where they are located and the impact of potential saturation on neighbourhoods and the environment. Owners should be obligated, legally, to “inform” their guests of water and septic use in rural locations and respect for neighbours and the environment in both urban and rural settings.
    Until the Municipality can get a handle on things, they need to put the brakes on and have a clear vision and plan.

  3. Dave says:

    What has not been mentioned here is that the STAs are vital to the success of the wineries and restaurants. 90% of winery revenue comes from walk in customers who need somewhere to stay! If you close the STAs then a lot of wineries won’t make it, and many other businesses which rely on walk in customers restaurants, art galleries and this will then put a lot of people out of work who are locals, who then can’t pay their mortgage.

    Is this what you want?

  4. Mark says:

    We are in a real mess that is probably inrepairable. All the efforts now are tourism management which in turn hurts locals and very little for the County taxpayer.

  5. CountyProud says:

    Dee, well said. I would say by the look of the map, we have hit critical mass for STAs both in urban and rural settings. I cannot speak for those living in our urban centers but I can imagine some of the challenges. From a rural point of view, STAs are increasingly becoming an issue.

    Combine the traffic from day visitors with the increase in traffic to local STAs and things are a bit out of control over the summer months. It is not uncommon to see multiple vehicles with several passengers pull into an STA in a rural area and then set up tents on the lawn next to the property. All those people, needing bathroom breaks and showers, water for dishes etc and then suddenly they are out of water – knocking on neighbours’ doors asking for help because they have no water. Add to this I am left to wonder just what might be going into the septic system at the property. Yes, STA owners have a responsibility to educate their guests but water, septic and neighbour privacy but clearly that is not happening.

    I’m tired of temporary visitors stopping to take pictures in my front flower garden or gazebo, their dogs doing their business along the road and being left behind as if there is a clean up service and not to mention the dogs off leash that have chased my free range chickens (and yes, I have lost more than one to dogs).

    Time to get serious about STAs once and for all.

  6. Gary says:

    Excellent point in regards to the increased pressure on our water supplies. City folks use water like it is coming out of their taps in Toronto.

  7. Dee says:

    The pressure rural STAs put on the rural aquifers during high season is unacceptable. Well water levels are getting lower and lower, and going dry earlier and earlier each year. Full time local residents conserve water but STAs accessing the same aquifers do not recognize the need for conservation. We have enough STAs with absentee landlords….we gave enough homes being bought up just for this purpose, eliminating rental to locals. How many register.
    It is time to say enough is enough. Market demand will increase, increasing congestion of roads, pollution, damage to the environment and destroying a local person’s ability to have any semblance of quality of life – as seen in the past 2 years. Just getting to work is a challenge!

  8. Susan says:

    Well said Dan. I totally agree. After seeing the map I am shocked that we have allowed this many STA’s. And you are so right, there is really no way to regulate or control, no matter what feeble attempt council thinks they can do. B&B’s are a whole other story. They are owner occupied and part of the community. We love the B&Bs, STA’s please get rid of them!

  9. Mark says:

    Muskoka considering banning all STA’S.

  10. Doug Oastrander says:

    We don’t need a single short term rental in the county.

  11. douglas murphy says:

    The council is elected to represent the local hotel and motel businesses that are paying commercial taxes to operate so each of these S.T.A.S should be taxed accordingly not as residental housing.

  12. Christine Elsbury says:

    This way not acceptable.

  13. Argyle says:

    By the looks of the map, the “ County “:is well passed the saturation point for STA’S…….surely it’s time for a cap or even a reduction in the number allowed.

  14. Teena says:

    I would really like to see all short term accomodations banned if the owners are not on the premises, around the clock, for the duration of the rental period.

  15. Lisa says:

    Great comments Dan. +1

  16. Dan says:

    I say again…. Muskoka is seeking to ban short term rentals. They cannot be controlled, licenced or overseen any appreciable way. Local OPP do NOT enforce bylaws per their contract with the municipality and county staff are overwhelmed at the best of times, not to mention at 130am on a weekend when a house full of short term renters is throwing a party next to your house. The reality is that people who work for a living, and their children suffer as a result of behaviour that cannot be controlled. If the county was worried about setting the tone, forget about STA’s and start with other major accommodation offenders.

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