Tiny Township is looking for a long-term solution to short-term accommodations (STAs).
Councillors heard from a consultant at a recent meeting, taking in information about how various municipalities of the same size deal with their STA issues.
Michael Wynia, partner, senior planner and ecologist with Skelton, Brumwell, and Associates Inc., pointed out that STAs need to be addressed in municipal bylaws, by either permitting them, prohibiting them, or permitting them in certain parts of the municipality. That should be done through public consultation, he added.
A Community Planning Permit System, said Wynia, can be very effective in dealing with some of the issues around STAs, such as noise and disturbance.
"Common recommendations are no parties, no fireworks, no outdoor speakers, strict enforcement of occupancy and these are incorporated in the licensing agreement," he said.
As well, Wynia added that licensing helps keep track of the number of STAs and regulates issues not covered under bylaw, such as sewage load and garbage disposal.
With licensing, he said, the STA location is publicly identified with a posted notice, which includes information for a local manager or on-site operator (that's also shared with the municipality).
That way, he added, when a complaint is made, the municipality gathers information, contacts the operator and specifies how the issue needs to be dealt with. Bylaw staff can then follow up to ensure compliance.
He also said the township could consider a 4% municipal accommodation tax for STAs.
"It would be an attempt at levelling the playing field for other commercial operations," Wynia said.
Coun. Gibb Wishart said his thinking was in line with what the consultant had proposed.
"I think we need to go through the licensing process and make it clear to the homeowner and clear to the short-term resident," said Wishart. "I'm willing to wade into this. When a person applies for a licence, I want their property inspected and septic checked, and how much parking there is and do they have a good garbage container. There's just a litany of things that need to be covered. How we set up the licensing process and the training process for aspiring STAs and homeowners is vital."
Coun. Tony Mintoff, who had been pushing for something since this past summer, addressed the need for public consultation.
"I'm not sure if you're aware of the survey that was completed by the FoTTSA (Federation of Tiny Township Shoreline Associations)," he said. "It wielded some 80-odd pages of comments. It wasn't limited to people who had problems, but it was open to everyone. In June, I had indicated that was a pretty good solid framework for public consultation, but I think if we're not going to discuss this until January, do we feel there's need for more public consultation?"
If there is, added Mintoff, staff could look at an online survey to garner more responses to quicken the process.
"That way, we can either confirm some of the results from the FoTTSA survey or gather more information," he said.
Tim Leitch, director of public work/interim chief administrative officer, said this issue is a minefield if a policy is not executed properly and fairly.
"I know we have some great data, but in the new year we should develop some questions for public consultation to find out what are our hotspots," he said. "We need to have full feedback from the community. We could look at regulations concurrently."
Another way the process could be cut short, said Mintoff, would be through consultation with other municipalities that have already tackled this matter.
"Council and a number of staff attended the county workshop way back in March and there were a number of municipalities that presented their version of a short-term accommodation program," he said. "I'm wondering if staff has been in contact with those municipalities to get some feeling from them about what worked well for them and what didn't work well for them?"
Steve Harvey, chief municipal law enforcement officer, agreed with Mintoff's approach.
"Everybody is doing the same sort of stuff," said Harvey. "We can borrow some questions from other municipalities."
Staff have added the STA item to the 2021 budget to seek money for a consultant to work on the bylaw, licensing and zoning changes, he added.
But council members were not happy at the mention of a consultant.
"I am not a fan of hiring a consultant and putting another step in this whole process and another cost," said Wishart, who has support from Mintoff, Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma, and Mayor George Cornell.
"I think we have adequate staff. We're not creating a new wheel here. This is something that's out there and tried and true. We need to be careful of the pitfalls. I think to avoid the consultant exercise we should work with our own staff and look at all other municipalities."
Leitch said if that's the direction council wants to proceed, then that's the way staff will go.
"I do see the experience that consultants bring, but if this is how council wants to go, we will remove the item from the budget," he added.
Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com