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Full house for marathon session on County’s short-term accommodations

UPDATE OCT 9 – Motion passed.

Following a marathon session at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole – featuring four deputations and 23 speakers from the public – council approved Official Plan and zoning amendments related to regulating short-term accommodations (STAs) in Prince Edward County. The licensing bylaw is to be brought forward in the first quarter next year.

The amendments and licencing drafts were presented Sept. 10 at a public meeting at the Wellington Community Centre. Since, more than 500 comments have been received, and feedback resulted in changes.

“Generally, grandfathering (existing before Oct. 9 if approved that date by council) provisions mean the Official Plan Amendment and the Zoning Bylaw Amendment are only applicable to new short-term rental accommodations only,” said Neil Carbone, Director of Community Development, providing an overview. “They are not applicable to the existing short-term accommodations.”

However, he did add most aspects of licencing and property standards bylaws are typically not subject to grandfathering provisions.

Carbone said numerous comments were received regarding the licencing, along with questions and concerns about how quickly such a new program could be rolled out and how efficiently it could be administered in the short term.

Those concerns were echoed throughout the meeting along with comments that STAs do, and do not, affect the attainable housing situation in the County, as many would be unaffordable even if they were on the market today.

“It is mystifying to those of us on the Prince Edward Affordable Housing Working Group, how some people are failing to see the link between the proliferation of short-term accommodation and the issue of affordable housing,” said Lorna MacDonald, chair of the working group.

She added that questions surrounding why developers don’t create more affordable housing are complex but “the short answer is that it is difficult to make a profit creating affordable housing and it is a slow-moving process… We cannot afford to have any more of our precious County housing resource, turned into short-term rentals.

“I am your problem,” said Barb Mason. “I represent Toronto. You have done such a good job of marketing yourselves as a lovely community full of warmth, compassion, food-to-table, everything that someone from Toronto wants – that we’re are coming here in droves.”

Mason, who has lived in a small Toronto community for 50 years, said excessive development from foreign investment is driving her out of her home.

I can’t stand that there’s no community there anymore. So I want everything that you have. And I want you to protect everything that you have because it’s why I’m coming here… why I have the STA, because I’m hoping to move here full-time in 24 months and I need the STA to help me do that.

“But you have a very big tsunami coming that’s much bigger than the STA – and it’s Toronto,” she said… “I hope, because Toronto’s real estate is doing so well – and I may be shooting myself in the foot for saying this – but, find a way to tax us as we come in so you can build your housing,” she said to laughter. “We’ve made a killing in that market. Call it whatever you need to. Tap us as we come in. We want to invest in the community. We’re opening businesses, we’re supporting. Help us help you and build all the housing that is needed. I’m going to be retiring here and I’m going to be needing those services too in 10-15 years, God-willing I’m able.”

She turned to the speakers in the gallery, asking them to be united, not divided.

“You all want the same thing. You all want a community that is full of love, has farmers, has a hospital, houses for single parents; you all want the same thing.”

Councillor Janice Maynard, the meeting’s chair, stated STAs are just one piece of the puzzle council has been working on over the past 18 months while dealing with affordable housing in the County.

“Will this fix all the issue? No. But as the report says, this strikes a balance between the interests of communities and neighbourhoods affordable housing and economic growth.”

Councillor Steve Ferguson called the amendments reasonable and noted the concern about the proliferation of STAs in the County has been the number one question he is asked on the campaign trail.

“Like Ms Mason, there are all kinds of people moving to the County for all the reasons she suggested and we have to ensure that the culture, if you like, those communities, and those neighbourhoods are preserved,” he said, adding discussion and consideration of the licencing issues must take public opinion into consideration.

Councillor Kevin Gale expressed concern about how the municipality would be able to enforce the bylaws with just three officers on staff.

Robert McAuley, Commissioner of Engineering, Development and Works, said enforcement would be on a complaint-driven basis, unless council were to provide direction to change that.

Councillor Treat Hull said the current state is not going to exist in the future – “it’s either going to be Wild West where citizens complain, the bylaw enforcement officer shuts down existing airbnbs not in allowable use, or, we have orderly regulation… What we get from this is the preservation of neighbours and neighbourhoods in areas where the density is presently too great… I believe this protects the existing owners. It protects the people who have already made their investment and applied for a buiding permit. What it does limit, is those who do not have a permit, or those who come in the future and try to expand in an area where the density is too high.”

Not seeking a seat on the coming term, Hull said he would be ready to speak to council as a citizen should there be concerns when the licencing bylaw comes forward.

“I will come back as a private citizen and make a deputation. I will get to speak longer then. And the point will be is that we should focus on what is most important and leave the minor things alone. Density is the most important thing. With regulation, we should do it with the lightest possible hand and at the lowest possible cost.”

The amendments come before council for approval on Oct. 9.

Hear all the comments on the stream of the meeting located on the County’s website.

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  1. Mark says:

    We need less government interference in our lives an property rights, not more.

  2. Dennis Fox says:

    After reading this article and the one in The Times, it appears that the Committee of The Whole has dropped the ballon this issue. In reality nothing has been decided to help either control the number of STAs orto improve the affordable housing issue. Due to the long time delay before the bylaw will come into effect, will result in these issues to drag on for years. I think the councillors allowed themselves to be bullied by the out of town landlords because it is election time. So where are all these leaders who are running in this election and why aren’t they standing up for the neighbourhoods that are being over-run by short term renters – or standing up to help those without a place to live? Their lack of action is disappointing.

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