Dysart et al’s Economic Development Committee is planning to press forward to decide on rules around short-term accommodations.

The committee met for the first time in the new term Jan. 23 and decided to make the issue its first priority.

Committee member and Coun. John Smith said Dysart should press ahead on the file and not count on the actions of neighbouring municipalities.

“Many people in this community are looking for us to take a position on short-term rentals,” he said. “Are we going to continue to allow the wild west or are we going to put some limits and constraints on that?”

Committee member Glenn Evans said short-term rentals remain a big concern.

“This did need to be tackled,” Evans said. “It sort of bubbled to the surface on the last committee and then it just bubbled back down again. It never did get the attention that I think it should have gotten.”

Committee member Dennis Casey noted Highlands East was the reason behind that, as the municipality opted to wait for how Highlands East handled the subject. Highlands East ultimately decided against proceeding with a proposed short-term accommodations bylaw for the time being.

Smith pushed for the committee to aim for a summer 2019 timeline to get new rules in place.

“If we just let it lie for many months, another whole year of the wild west that exists today is, from my perspective, unacceptable,” he said.

However, deputy mayor Patrick Kennedy replied with the need for public consultations, such a timeline would not work. He instead suggested the committee have something to put forward by the start of the new year.

Committee chair Walt McKechnie said it would be a great accomplishment if the committee could start moving to address the issue, adding the number of cottage rentals can impact water health.

“It’s something that has to be addressed right away,” he said. “It’s so important to our community. We’re sitting on such a tremendous amount of water.”

Committee considers new strategy

The committee also reviewed the municipality’s economic development strategy, discussing ways to adjust it and narrow down its 16 separate priorities.

Casey said there is a chance to do something different and improve on the poor reputation the municipality has in business.

“Dysart has a bad reputation of not doing their thing well in terms of how business is being helped,” Casey said during the meeting. “I don’t think there’s anybody in this room that will deny that.”

Nobody on the committee denied Casey’s statement.

He recommended the committee discus how it feels about its business community before adjusting its strategic plan.

“Let’s decide where we’re going and let’s decide what we can do and then put a budget number on it to make the things happen that we want to make happen,” he said.

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