Kimberley house party prompts review of short-term rental rules

·3 min read

A Canada Day weekend party in Kimberley has led to Grey Highlands council voting to have staff review the municipality’s short-term accommodation (STA) licensing regime.

At its meeting on July 20, council voted in favour of having staff review the STA program after the municipality received several complaints from Kimberley residents about a long-weekend party at a STA property on Wodehouse Court.

In reviewing the situation, staff discovered that the municipality had erroneously issued five STA licenses to properties on Wodehouse Court. Density provisions in the STA rules should not have allowed more than three licenses to be granted in that area of the municipality.

“It was an administrative error on the municipality’s part,” explained Michele Harris, director of community and economic development. “We believe we have remedied this going forward.”

Harris said when the Grey Highlands STA bylaw came into effect two years ago, the municipality had a flood of 140 applications and staff missed the Wodehouse Court density issue.

Harris also said, for the most part, the STA rules and regulations have been functioning as hoped, but she recommended to council that staff take a look at the overall program and bring back a report with recommendations for improvements.

“This is not a simple issue. This program has worked well. Has it been perfect? Absolutely not, it’s time for a refresh,” said Harris.

In addition to discovering that too many licenses had been issued in that area of the municipality, staff also discovered that the property owner’s contact information had not been supplied to the call centre for complaints. A number of local residents notified the call centre of the issues at the property, but the call centre could not contact the owner because it did not have contact information.

The report from staff included a lengthy resolution for council to consider that included a clause that recognizes the five STA licenses on Wodehouse Court and directs staff to not issue any more.

Coun. Paul Allen objected to the clause recognizing the five licenses. Allen suggested the additional licenses that were granted in contravention of the bylaw be revoked.

“This recommendation is protecting owners of STA locations that shouldn’t have been approved. Residents thought they had some protection from their neighbourhood becoming a party destination,” said Allen. “It disappoints me we’re not supporting our residents.”

CAO Karen Govan said the municipality is caught in a tough spot on the matter. She said the licenses were granted to property owners in good faith and revoking them because of a municipal error would be problematic.

“It is a very difficult position to be in from the municipal standpoint. We don’t know what kind of renovations have taken place in anticipation of receiving a license. We would open ourselves up to litigation,” she said.

Coun. Cathy Little suggested the municipality put a temporary moratorium on issuing any permits under the program until the staff review is completed. However, Little’s suggestion didn’t find much support with her colleagues.

“It concerns me we’re talking about pausing this. The STA program has been working effectively,” said Coun. Tom Allwood. “It seems like one bad egg is disrupting a program that has been working effectively.”

The resolution as presented was passed by council in a 6-0 vote. The section recognizing the five licenses on Wodehouse Court was pulled out for a separate vote and passed 5-1 with Allen opposing. Deputy Mayor Aakash Desai declared a pecuniary interest on the matter and did not participate in the discussion or votes.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

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