Short-term rentals are commercial properties, says Mono mayor

Mono may soon get a piece of the short-term rental segment of the tourism industry.

A line item dubbed short-term rental (STR) accommodations bylaw has been listed among unfinished town council business since November 2023, listed as being of low priority.

Councillor Elaine Capes said she can appreciate that council has prioritized items and set targets for issues. But the topic of regulating short-term rental properties is a hot button issues in many Ontario jurisdictions.

Indeed, township councils in the Muskoka region and Haliburton County, some of the places typically thought of as cottage country, have been debating ways to regulate and capitalize on Airbnb type cottage rentals for some time.

Capes said she’d like to see town staff to help council clearly define when progress can be expected.

“It’s coming up everywhere, all over the place,” she said. “And I think it needs to be a higher priority. I know it says high priority, but it doesn’t have any date.”

Michael Dunmore, the town’s CAO, said municipal work plans are filed when a department’s capital and operating budget for the year is submitted. And the STR issue has been outside any specific departmental work plan for 2024.

“Short-term rentals is an additive that’s been put on by council,” Dunmore said.

The Township of Muskoka Lakes council was set to debate the issue earlier in February. Dunmore said for the municipality to have gotten to the point of formal debate, a consultant was most likely was hired first to look into the issue.

“I can guarantee Muskoka would have used a consultant to get to that point,” he said. “There’s a very large process that goes on with these (issues).”

Council sets the priorities, but any town clerk devises a timeline for tackling certain issues in cooperation with the Planning Department.

“So there’s time that’s needed to get to this point,” he said. “Moving it up on the to-do list, you will need to knock things off the to-do list.

“The to-do list is very long and it will be staff intensive.”

Mayor John Creelman said council should send a strongly worded letter to the provincial government, suggesting STR properties should be assessed differently than residential properties.

STR operations are commercial income-generating properties.

Creelman said council has taken that question to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation in the past.

“And they said they couldn’t do anything about it without a green light from the province,” he said.

He said such a change in property assessments would quash the notion that people are living in an ordinary residence when they’re actually living in a commercial property that generates thousands of dollars as a business.

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James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen