Highlands East is preparing a short-term rental questionnaire in an effort to understand the community’s feelings on the topic.

Council voted to proceed with a two-month public review for the draft questionnaire during its Feb. 12 meeting. The questionnaire seeks to gather public input on the issue of short-term rentals and is modelled after one completed in Minden Hills last fall.

Chief administrative officer and treasurer Shannon Hunter said this is a way to get an idea of how the public feels about short-term rentals.

“This is fulfilling what council stated that they wanted to do was reach out to the public to receive public input from all Highlands East residents on how they feel, or maybe impacts that they have, positive or negative impacts they have, on short-term rentals,” Hunter said.

The draft questionnaire includes questions such as whether a person has personally experienced short-term rentals being associated with unwanted behaviours and whether they see short-term rentals as being positive for economic development.

Another portion of the questionnaire also asks about whether the municipality should regulate short-term rentals and requests opinions on possible regulatory options, such as limiting the number of days a short-term rental can be rented in a year.

However, the questionnaire received a lengthy response from Ryan Bailey, an area cottager who spoke out against the municipality’s work on the short-term rental file at its Jan. 16 council meeting. In a mass email to council members, Bailey questioned the winter timing of the public review period for the survey, given the number of seasonal residents impacted by the matter.

Bailey also questioned whether more research and data collection should be conducted before a survey, such as a cost estimate on the implementation and enforcement of short-term accommodation regulations and a study on other provincial municipalities addressing short-term rentals.

“How can residents possibly make informed submissions through a survey without first understanding the facts and data of the matter?” Bailey said.

Hunter commented on council receiving a “communication from ratepayers” prior to the meeting.

“Some of the concerns had to do with the questionnaire being put out, the cart before the horse,” Hunter said. “However, council stated they wanted to seek input from all residents. Their input on their feelings not on any particular bylaw or scenario.”

“We’re solely seeking input on a draft document,” Hunter later added.

Deputy mayor Cec Ryall said the municipality is facing serious challenges in dealing with short-term rentals.

“We’re getting bogged down before we can get out of the starting blocks,” Ryall said.

The draft questionnaire on short-term rentals will be posted on the municipal website, according to a staff report. The public input period will go until April 30.

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