Penetanguishene digs deeper into STR licensing bylaws

·4 min read

Progress on enforcing short-term rentals in Penetanguishene inched forward at the recent council meeting, but will still require more work on the licensing bylaw draft and the zoning bylaw appeal process.

Planning staff brought forward the latest staff recommendations for committee of the whole endorsement of the draft licensing bylaw, but were met with additional questions and scrutiny from the public.

Townsfolk have held widespread opinions on the spectrum of acceptance for short-term rental (STR) accommodations since their explosion of popularity last year, with some good STR operators praising the proposed regulations and some residents immovably opposed to STRs whatsoever.

The most recent licensing bylaw draft included options on staffing resources and fees for implementations to administer the bylaw. Staff recommended hiring a part time staff member and engaging external STR compliance service through either Granicus or Harmari at the highest bylaw service level, with an application fee proposed at $700.

A Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT), geared toward “any transient accommodation including STRs, hotels, motels, boat slips, and campsites”, was discussed with the County of Simcoe for options. Staff did not recommend the MAT as an option, suggesting it be addressed separately for implications and details.

Council members shared stories of absentee landlords, neighbourhood neglect, and disruptive instances.

Coun. Dan La Rose appreciated the work put into the report, but wanted to “get out of STRs altogether” following a recent STR incident on Robert Street West where he witnessed nine bags of garbage left out on the road the following morning that had been torn open by birds.

“I’m thinking of the neighbours living on that road, the people right there, and they have to put up with all this garbage, people yapping, new people coming in and out. And they didn’t sign up for that.

“They bought a house in a residential area, and they were hoping their house would have residential beside it on both sides. And now we’re about to say: ‘You’re allowed to rent that unit out to a bunch of crazy partiers. You may rent it out to very nice people too.’ But that option is there,” La Rose said.

Coun. George Vadeboncoeur brought a list of concerns, stating that enforcement needed to be a strict deterrent and not shrugged off as “the cost of doing business."

He noted a history of the licence holder should be considered for those looking to sneak in through any loopholes on the three strikes leniency; that a “nuisance” addition be made to the health and safety section; and that the cost of staffing and enforcing the bylaw be carried by the STR operators and not the taxpayers.

Planner Owen Taylor responded to council concerns, noting that it was staff’s intent to bring forward a final version of the licensing bylaw for council’s approval next month for immediate implementation thereafter.

Following approval to send the draft back for further revisions, Penetanguishene resident Peter Graham asked council a tough question after residence near him was purchased solely for STR gains.

“Are STRs commercial enterprises, and did the town solicitor identify them as such – or is the bylaw written that way that they are?” asked Graham.

Both Vadeboncoeur and CAO Jeff Lees explained that the solicitor-client privilege constrained them from fully disclosing that answer.

“What’s being brought in front of council this evening, and certainly through the zoning bylaw process, is from our solicitor’s perspective legal and legit, and addresses the very question,” stated Lees apologetically.

Graham further asked council specifically about legal non-conforming uses, also known as “grandfathering”, for a residence along McArthur Drive last week which he claimed held 16 guests with eight vehicles.

Taylor began an explanation before being cut short by Graham, and resumed to focus on the immediate question.

Taylor replied that while that STR operator would be grandfathered in through the new zoning bylaw, the upcoming licensing bylaws would regulate a maximum of four bedrooms and eight person occupancy, and it would not be considered compliant in a legal non-conforming use.

The reply seemed to appease Graham.

Further information can be found on the short-term rentals page of the Connect Penetanguishene website.

The draft comprehensive short term rental licensing bylaw report can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca

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