A lakeside community in Leeds and the Thousand Islands is pushing back against short-term rental services in the area, like Airbnb.
A delegation presentation regarding this issue was made during the April 6 Leeds and the Thousand Islands committee of the whole meeting, where local resident Erin Braidford presented to council on behalf of the Killenbeck Lane Resident Association (KLRA).
The KLRA has a membership of eight properties on a remote, private laneway on Killenbeck Lake, that is roughly under half a kilometre in length.
On Jan. 15, a property at 112 Killenbeck Lane, two doors from Braidford's residence, was purchased as an investing property by a couple living in downtown Toronto, council heard, offering short term rentals with 365 days availability to book via seven online booking platforms.
And the KLRA is of the opinion that this property, which was serving as a short-term rental, is a commercial business operating in a limited serviced residential zone.
"It's operating as a ghost hotel, which essentially means that there's a locked box on the (entrance) door and the owner is absent," Braidford said. "The owner advertises on its online booking platform, 'if you're looking for something from me during your stay, you won't see me,'"
The KLRA has asked council to recognize that this property was not complying with zoning requirements. It wants the owner to be directed to stop using the property for the purpose of short-term rentals, to apply for rezoning with respect to permitted use of the property, and to apply for a minor variance with respect to minimum zoning requirements.
The proposed long-term solution from the KLRA includes directing township staff to develop a bylaw concerning regulation for short-term rentals.
"We respectfully ask that the current zoning bylaw be used to address this situation," said Braidford.
The property at 112 Killenbeck has since been sold. However, a property at 102 Killenbeck, one door from Braidford's, was purchased in February 2022 and, in April, Braidford learned of the owner's intent to transform the property into a short-term rental.
"We only found out the intent to operate exclusively as an investment property when we met the new owner on April 1," Braidford said.
"He was told from the seller about the history of our experience, our work towards a bylaw with township and our position on not wanting rentals on our street. When I spoke to him, he indicated there was no bylaw and he was not doing anything illegal. So very frustrating for all of us after so much combined effort and work.”
Steve Donachey, the township's chief administrative officer, said staff intends to bring forth a report regarding short-term rental at the May 2 committee of the whole meeting.
"I hope they'll put something in place to prevent this from happening in a residential area," Braidford said, adding she's looking forward to Monday's meeting.
"I hope the meeting doesn't say they don't have the staff to manage this policy so they're not going to do anything. It all comes down to zoning. In more cottage areas, more commercial areas, places where there may be hotels/motels, sure, it makes sense, but to drop (short-term rentals) in the middle of a residential neighbourhood where you have families living and working day in and day out, it's really uncomfortable. It's all vacation mode but we're in living mode."
Concerns raised by Braidford and the KLRAregarding the increase in short-term rentals in the area includes an increase in traffic.
"It's one way traffic, gravel road; if someone approaches you as you are driving in or out, one (vehicle) needs to pull over to provide the right of passage," Braidford said.
There's also been more speeding on the laneway and issues with maintenance, as well as noise complaints and issues of property standards.
Members of the area are concerned about ongoing usage at such a capacity on the septic system. The lake drains into Charleston Lake through Charleston Lake Provincial Park.
From a COVID-19 pandemic perspective, the lack of supervision over some of these short-term rental properties in question, along with the possibility of large gatherings, is also of concern. So too is insurance liability.
"It created some extra wear and tear on the road, but ultimately, there's a lot of insurance liability, too," said Braidford.
"The way private roads are set up, because we own the maintenance on the road, if anyone should have an accident on the road or anything like that, we, as owners, are all liable for any injury to property or person on the road."
As it is a privately maintained laneway, the residents pay for all of the road maintenance, as it's not something provided by the township.
"We collect a fee so we can provide gravel, resurfacing, winter maintenance," Braidford said.
"The owner of the short-term rental (at 112 Killenbeck) had invited its guests to bring in their toys, including all-terrain vehicles, and we do have a concern over the impact of the use of ATVs on our property and our privately maintained laneway."
(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)
Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times