Charlottetown council will reconsider its own position on short-term vacation rentals in favour of a more restrictive regulation model that could convert more homes back into long-term rentals.
It's time for city council to reassess its position, said Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown, in light of a public meeting in May in which many residents voiced support for a more restrictive policy than the one endorsed by council last year.
Brown said council needs "to start with a clean slate" ahead of a push being spearheaded by the city's planning department to have a short-term rental bylaw written and ready for public consultation in October.
At a special meeting Monday, the city's manager of planning Alex Forbes told council city staff are prepared to release a new report on the issue in September that reflects feedback received from a boisterous public meeting May 17.
Five options put forward
The city has been considering how to regulate the short-term rental industry for years.
It is proceeding based on a set of five options put forward by the city's planning department in March 2020.
Scenarios one and two are the most restrictive, allowing only owner-occupied residences to be placed on the short-term rental market. Scenarios three through five allow for so-called commercial STRs to operate in zones that allow hotels and hostels.
When those scenarios were first presented to council staff recommended the city pursue scenario three. But a motion to do so was defeated, with council instead voting to pursue scenario four, which would allow apartments to operate as commercial STRs.
The initial plan to consult with the public was shelved because of the pandemic. When a public meeting was finally held this spring there were 300 in attendance, and most who spoke called for the most restrictive regulations, which planning staff have said would return more properties onto the long-term housing market.
Forbes told council Monday night that members of the public at that meeting "gave a pretty strong direction, to staff at least, the direction that they prefer," which he noted was different from the direction council endorsed in March of 2020.
Call to rescind motion
Coun. Alanna Jankov suggested council immediately rescind that motion, but council decided to wait for the issue to be discussed by the city's planning committee.
"The times are different," said Jankov after the meeting.
"We have gotten more information from our public information session and the public was pretty clear on some of the… ideas that they had that they would like to see brought into a scenario.
"If we're starting a new process, we may as well rescind and move on from there."
New chair of planning committee
Council approved Terry MacLeod as the new chair of planning committee to lead the rest of the process of developing a short-term rental bylaw.
Coun. Mike Duffy announced he was stepping down as chair of the planning committee in early July, citing health concerns.
"The people at the public meeting definitely were heard loud and clear and they want to see a little more restriction," MacLeod told CBC News.
"And that's the trick for us, is to find a happy medium that can satisfy everyone. And of course, the big thing is to try and and have it so that people have a place to live."
Bringing in a short-term rental bylaw would require amendments to the city's zoning bylaw and official plan. It would also require changes to allow for enforcement of the new rules through summary convictions.
The city is also contemplating how much it should charge operators as a registration fee.
While the mayor said he hoped the new STR bylaw would be on the books by the new year, the new chair of the planning committee said it could take longer than that.
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