Tiny Township going in circles with short-term rental solutions

·4 min read

Several rounds of staff reports, public comments, and consultant presentations later, Tiny council still remains at square one around an effective strategy to address short-term rental (STR) issues in the township.

At the end of the day, staff were sent back to prepare a public survey and to continue drafting an STR licensing bylaw and renters code of conduct with public input.

In the process' latest round, council's committee of the whole received an open deputation Friday from a resident, who had concerns around the third-party monitoring system, a presentation from the third-party service provider and another staff report.

"I read through the supplier and I have concerns about the cost and the Big Brother feel," said Kim Romans, who is a year-round Tiny resident with two rental cottages on her property. "This is not a registry, this is about regulation.

"We are a small township and a small number of units," she added. "People who are offering STRs should come to the table and work with council to design something that works for the people and township. We shouldn't be burdening people with over-regulating and the costs associated with them."

Coun. Tony Mintoff clarified for Romans that the township's intent was always to come up with some sort of regulation around STRs in the area.

"It's always been the intent to have a registration and a licensing program," he said. "As for survey of the members of the public and property owners, that's part of the plan."

Council also sat through a presentation by Samantha White, account executive with Granicus - Host Compliance, whose services were giving Romans the jitters.

The company, White said, focuses and specializes in helping local governments address their short-term rental related challenges.

"We pull down the data from the top 60 STR platforms and match that with your assessor data to drive greater compliance using the solutions we have," White said.

The five tools that Granicus offers include digital registration and tax collection, address identification, compliance and rental activity monitoring and a dedicated hotline for complainants, she explained.

Steve Harvey, chief municipal law enforcement officer, said staff had brought forward Granicus as an efficiency tool.

"Staff see this as a very important efficiency tool to get us up and running very quickly for 2021," he said. "It's a critical component to rolling this out. Recreating something similar to this would take a lot of time and be cost prohibitive. (Granicus costs) $36,000 a year and we're asking council to consider them as sole-source provider."

In addition to the $36,000 cost for bringing on Granicus, Harvey said, staff was also proposing an additional bylaw officer at a cost of $51,000 for eight months.

Some council members still had concerns if the township had the right way of approaching the issue.

"What are we trying to achieve and more particularly what are we trying to achieve for the 2021 season?" said Mayor George Cornell. "I don't think we're at a point where we can start writing up our bylaw and engage Granicus. There's a whole public consultation piece here that hasn't been looked at. We haven't made any decisions yet. I would caution council not to get ahead of ourselves."

That's exactly where Mintoff was coming from.

"I think it's premature to be thinking about engaging a third-party consultant and hiring a staff now when we haven't even put the issue of what the program is going to look like," he said. "I do agree with the bylaw approach versus the zoning approach because it would help us administer a monetary penalty system."

Instead, Mintoff said a survey is a good first step in which to begin. He also wasn't convinced if the definition of an STR should focus on any period less than 28 consecutive calendar days since the problems lie with those renting for weekends.

"We should be looking at under eight days," he said, adding, "We can get our feet wet and look at the ones that are causing the most problems.

"If we just say, if you're going to rent less than eight days, you have to register," said Mintoff. "That doesn't say you can't rent for 28 days."

All council members agreed that engaging Granicus services at this time wasn't necessary, however, White and her colleague offered to help staff in crafting the licensing framework.

Meanwhile, staff will continue with the strict enforcement policy already in place. Council is hoping to have a report back with an implementation date for the end of May.

The decision was ratified at the council meeting held later the same day.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com