Draft short-term rental bylaw expected in August

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After a presentation on the opportunities and potential of a Short Term Rental (STR) Bylaw, Council requested a draft bylaw be put together for Hinton prior to Aug. 31, 2021.

“Simplicity is key. I think a simple vision around STRs being embraced as a positive contributing entity to the community is a good start,” said Coun. Dewly Nelson at the May 18 standing committee meeting.

Creating clarity for current STR operators is huge, and the first step is requiring a business license with proof of insurance, Nelson said.

That business license will allow the Town to collect data to understand how many STRs are operating in Hinton and where they’re concentrated.

Several municipalities that administration looked at have specific zones in their Land Use Bylaw where STRs or “Tourist Homes” are allowed.

Having data on STR locations in Hinton will allow council to make decisions if they need to regulate STRs through zoning, Nelson added.

Coun. Trevor Haas said another benefit would be freeing up some housing for people by not allowing an entire apartment building to be made up of STR units.

In some locations there are out-of-province owners and council could look into regulating that as well, said Winston Rossouw, interim manager of the engineering and development services team.

“Apartments could play a big role in the future. There are many families who struggle to get apartments at a reasonable price. We have the same issue with certain dwellings in our community,” said Mayor Marcel Michaels.

He added that requiring a business license and proof of insurance are key starting points for the draft bylaw, as well as requiring STRs to be a principal residence only.

In discussion with realtors, Michaels found out that many people from Edmonton are looking to buy property just to AirBnB in the community.

None of the communities in the presentation had a cap on the amount of permits they allowed, but that doesn’t mean Hinton couldn’t look into that, Rossouw said.

In one example, the City of Kelowna requires STRs to obtain a ‘Good Neighbour Responsibility Agreement’ before they receive their permit. That doesn’t mean an STR won’t be approved if a neighbour is against an STR, stated Rossouw, but it will extend the process.

Rossouw stated that other municipalities handled regulations based on complaints to start with.

“Out of the gate, there’s a level of trust that the communities had with their operators. They have problems with unauthorized STRs but that was soon cleaned up, that doesn’t mean the problem was totally solved, but the community worked together to help and raise complaints,” Rossouw said.

There will be an element of stepping up enforcement, but a complaint-based and trust approach will have a desired outcome, Rossouw said.

Other communities require fire and health and safety code inspections, evacuation plans, insurance, and any other required documentation during the business license application, and possibly a resubmission every number of years, Rossouw added.

Currently, without any regulations around STRs in Hinton and no issued licenses, the liability of STRs falls on the operators and their own insurance. If the Town approves certain STRs, the liability becomes joint, said Rossouw.

Haas pointed out that STR operators need the proper home insurance to ensure the safety of their neighbours homes as well.

“When these people are applying for their business license they also have to supply the fire inspection, that it has been done. We’re not going to let you get your license and then hopefully get a fire inspection,” said Coun. JoAnn Race.

While Coun. Ryan Maguhn mentioned they may need to look into a public forum to gather some feedback for a potential draft bylaw, Michaels noted that this would delay the process.

“One condition I would want is for this to be reviewed maybe within 18 months,” Michaels said.

This means the next elected council would review the bylaw to see what is working and what is not.

With a new STR bylaw, the business license and land use bylaws would both have to be updated to include new business categories, said CAO Emily Olsen.

Olsen added that there would be time for some public engagement between the draft bylaw and the official decision coming back to council.

Hinton’s current Land Use Bylaw #1088 contains no regulations regarding STRs, but does address bed and breakfast operations as a home based business. The Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association outlined the urgent need for Hinton to create a level playing field and strive toward creating regulations.

Hinton currently has 70 AirBnB’s and nine VRBO listings, according to administration’s presentation.

Hinton’s zoning bylaw also doesn’t address or support STRs and they don’t operate under a Town issued business license.

Rossouw said it was important to have a framework or policy to ensure STR operations align with council-endorsed visions and principles.

Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice

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