Dysart et al councillors want to address short-term rentals as part of efforts to improve service delivery.
Council combed through its service delivery review in a special meeting Feb. 16. The document, first presented by consultant StrategyCorp in September, highlighted seven key initiatives for the municipality. Those included recommendations to address short-term rentals, strategic planning, customer service, landfills, the sewage treatment plant, and digitizing the roads department.
StrategyCorp estimated a potential for $700,000 in new cash flow. Council went through the next steps for each of the items. For rentals, they plan to have online platform iHost present about an online licencing system.
“My patience is up,” deputy mayor Patrick Kennedy said. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but I think the time for waiting is over.”
StrategyCorp recommended some type of regulatory response to short-term rentals, whether through a licencing system, a municipal accommodation tax, or both, implemented between 2022-2023. It estimated an effort could bring $75,000- $268,000 in increased revenue to the township.
Kennedy has previously said it is an issue the County should take up, given the struggles all four lower-tier townships are having with it. But both Kennedy and Mayor Andrea Roberts said that is not happening. Still, Roberts said it is important to communicate with the other townships to ensure consistency.
Coun. Tammy Donaldson said she studied the issue extensively. She said licencing is not necessary and suggested providing homeowners with easy-to-access resources on municipal rules to provide to renters.
“Short-term rentals bring more people into the area,” Donaldson said. “Licensing is not the answer to get the homeowners to comply, because the majority do a good job.”
Coun. Larry Clarke said he gets more complaints on the issue than anything else and there is a concern with people purchasing cottages solely to rent them out.
“A short-term rental property that’s primarily for that purpose, it is a business. It is not a residence. It has to be looked at differently,” Clarke said.
Council discussed progress made in other areas of the review – and next steps for longer-term initiatives.
They intend to put more policies in place to standardize customer service response times. The digitizing of the roads department is underway, including a platform for online bids and tenders. A short-term waste management review was received by council in January from consultant J2PG with a subsequent education session to come. Recreation facilities and sewage treatment plant changes are longer-term projects without immediate plans, though a land donation for a possible site for a new recreation centre is processing.
As for strategic planning, CAO Tamara Wilbee said $25,000 is budgeted this year. Roberts said she hopes the plan is finished by May 2022, before the election cycle.
Coun. John Smith raised the issue with getting a strategic plan in place so late in council’s term, potentially restricting the next council.
Wilbee responded there will be a four-year planning cycle and an annual review of the strategic plan.
“It’s a very live document. That’s the intention,” she said.