Highlands East residents will soon have their chance to give their input on the future direction of short-term rentals through a new publicly-scrutinized survey.  

Council went through a draft version of a short-term rentals survey during its June 11 meeting.

It also reviewed the 26 public feedback responses it received about the draft survey. However, council directed staff to maintain most of the 23 draft questions.  

Coun. Cam McKenzie commented on how repetitious some of the feedback was, ranging from concerns about the tone of the questions to a desire to have a neutral third-party conduct the survey.  

“Seems to be the majority of them had the same points, which I thought kind of surprising,” McKenzie said.  

The questionnaire is for feedback about the impact of short-term rentals and whether people are in favour of the municipality regulating them.

Although council agreed with some public suggestions, such as adding comment boxes to more questions, they did not act on many of them.  

The survey asks residents to provide their address. People provided feedback that the survey should be kept more anonymous.

However, council agreed with CAO Shannon Hunter’s justification that the municipality should avoid the risk of duplication.  

“It was felt that if someone filled in a survey and provided their address, then you would not be able to skew the response by having one person fill in multiple surveys,” Hunter said. 

 Public feedback also raised concern about questions being framed too negatively toward owners who rent out their properties. A long list of publicly-suggested questions was also brought forward, but the majority were not considered.

The questions touch on a number of proposals to regulate short-term rentals, including making them a permitted use in all residential zones, regulating a separation distance between short-term rentals and regulating the maximum number of occupants a short-term rental could have.  

McKenzie questioned a number of the regulatory ideas within the survey and how practical they might be to enforce.  But deputy Mayor Cec Ryall replied they need to separate the survey from drafting a bylaw.  

“This is not to determine the overall framework or content of the bylaw itself,” Ryall said. “We need to find what people who we’re working with believe is important.”  

The township will issue information on the survey in this year’s tax notices.

Staff plan to have it be primarily online, which Hunter said would save thousands of dollars compared to a paper survey. Those without computer access are to contact the municipal office to have a paper copy mailed to them.

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