Highlands East to regulate short-term rentals
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | August 9, 2018
It looks like Highlands East property owners who rent out their cottages on popular websites like Airbnb will eventually have to pay for a license to do so.
A short-term accommodation task group worked with municipal staff to present a draft bylaw for council’s review last week. It states that short-term rentals (28 days or less) would require a three-year license at a cost of $300. They would like to hold off charging a licensing fee until June 2019.
“It is recognized that short-term accommodation is vital to our economic prosperity, however regulations need to be implemented to address many issues, including: zoning infractions, noise, parking, building deficiencies, health and safety, and environmental,” said CAO/treasurer Shannon Hunter in a report.
The task force, which was established by the municipality, includes a member of a cottage rental agency, an Airbnb owner, a resident affected by short-term rentals, two councillors and Hunter.
By launching a licensing program, the municipality will ensure properties are: properly zoned, follow noise bylaw restrictions, have parking arrangements, and limit accommodations to the number of available bedrooms, said Hunter. Other requirements would include adequate septic systems, and fire safety and emergency planning.
A lot of work went into the bylaw, said Hunter.
“We’ve done extensive rewording and many revisions. We feel what we’ve brought forward is fair,” she said. Revisions were vetted by staff.
They reviewed what other areas, like Blue Mountain, have done and read articles about short-term accommodations, Hunter told The Highlander.
The group recommended a demerit point system for infractions. It would be enforced through provincial court or the Municipal Act, she said.
One of the points in the bylaw states that waterfront properties will be limited to one rental per owner, per lake.
Coun. Cam McKenzie wondered if anyone could challenge this.
“Any bylaw can be challenged,” responded Hunter.
In April, municipal planner Chris Jones recommended the licensing and regulation of short-term rentals be “reinforced through the municipality’s comprehensive zoning bylaw.” He provided a draft zoning amendment to complement this initiative.
“It should resonate, or be in line, with zoning terminology,” said Jones.
The task group requested the municipality schedule a public meeting for input and to amend the zoning bylaw.
Council approved a meeting for Aug. 29 from 5-7 p.m. at the Lloyd Watson Centre in Wilberforce.
Highlands East is the first municipality in the county to draft such a bylaw.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.