Short-term rental operator looks for balance in proposed bylaw

·3 min read

Saint Andrews passed the first reading of its short-term rental bylaw at a special council meeting on Monday.

The bylaw was created, said Coun. Andrew Harrison, to develop a permit system to regulate short-term rentals in the town.

Short-term rental residential units are full dwelling units (or parts of it) used as accommodation for travellers for no more than 30 days at a time, he said.

"The purpose of this bylaw is to help limit negative impacts to long-term rentals and housing affordability, ensure the accommodations meet safety requirements and compliance, neighbour compatibility, support the tourism economy and support equity among all short-term rental accommodation providers," Harrison said.

Town clerk Paul Nopper said AirBnBs have "very limited to no regulations at this point."

Deputy Mayor Brad Henderson said it's to make sure that when people are visiting Saint Andrews, it's safe.

The bylaw mostly covers permit requirements, inspections, responsibilities of the owner and operator, prohibitions and penalties.

Saint Andrews resident Joanne Carney said she would like to see a compromise on the bylaw and aims to bring her concerns forward to council.

Carney operates a short-term rental space within her home and has also purchased a property for her employees and for short-term rental space. She said if the bylaw is passed, it would make it so that certain zones require a primary resident on the property that houses the short-term rental space.

She said she's not so sure that "penalizing" short-term rentals will make these spaces revert to long-term rental spaces or increase the vacancy rate. She said there needs to be a balance between long-term and short-term rentals

"I know the councillors, they're open to changes and discussion. They'll definitely hear from people who are threatened to be shut down at the moment."

In addition, she said limiting the short-term rental permits (if the primary resident lives there most of the time), doesn't make sense.

In some cases, she said owning and operating short-term rentals, helps make living more affordable in Saint Andrews.

The councillors discussed having a three-permit limit per individual for short-term rentals with a potential grandfather clause, or an increasing permit fee for individuals; instead of a 50-permit limit for the whole town. CAO Chris Spear said all existing short-term rentals would be included in this 50-permit total.

Nopper said the 50-permit limit was based on the town's pre-existing short-term rental numbers and took into consideration council's aim to protect the long-term rentals by limiting the number of short-term rentals.

"It limits that so that we don't have AirBnB Inc. coming in and buying up a bunch of short-term rentals," said Coun. Guy Groulx.

Coun. Kurt Gumushel was against limiting the number of short-term rentals.

Nopper said he would take the discussions and feedback and put it into the second draft of the document.

There were also some discussions and clarifications at the meeting between the councillors concerning limiting of guests and permit qualifications.

The full bylaw is posted on the town's website, so the public can view it before it goes onto further readings and a public hearing.

Nopper said the bylaw could be passed by April 2021 but Mayor Doug Naish said it's subject to change.

"It will be done right," said Naish.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. L'initiative de journalisme local est financée par le gouvernement du Canada.

Caitlin Dutt, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal