Haliburton County could soon hire external help to assist it in drafting short-term rental rules.

Staff will develop a request for proposals (RFP) to be circulated among municipal CAOs and Warden Liz Danielsen before being made public. The County could begin receiving bids as soon as late August.

“We can be going before the end of the year for sure,” CAO Mike Rutter said at a July 28 meeting of council.

He suggested the process of establishing short-term rental rules could be similar to the path the County took regarding a review of its contentious shoreline bylaw.

In that case, a consultant is currently conducting best practices analysis, engaging residents and stakeholders with surveys and open houses and developing a draft bylaw to submit to council.

Currently, there are few zoning or regulatory bylaws governing short-term rentals in the County.

Conduct of hosts and guests at these informal rental locations have sparked dismay across the County. These stays are often at private residences rented through online services such as Airbnb or VRBO. That makes regulation and enforcement difficult.

“I don’t think there’s any other way than to hire a consultant,” said Dysart et al mayor Andrea Roberts.

Across Canada, various municipalities are trying to tackle the issue. Northern Ontario’s Sault Ste. Marie is considering restricting Airbnb owners from renting out properties not attached to their primary residence, and capping rental stays at 180 nights a year.

In a May meeting of Haliburton County Council, the municipalities voted to discuss possible regulation and zoning requirements at a County level.

“We have to acknowledge as a community that we have to govern for the bad apples,” Algonquin Highlands mayor Carol Moffatt said. “There are good people who rent well to good people and that’s never a problem.”

However, enforcing bylaws regarding short-term rentals would be challenging for County staff already stretched thin, acknowledged Danielsen.

“I’m not suggesting we don’t do it because of that, but it’s one of the elephants in the room,” she said.

Minden Hills mayor Brent Devolin said the need for guidance on short-term rentals is urgent, as the County sees increased traffic and tourism.

“This can’t happen fast enough,” Devolin said. “We’re beginning to be who we don’t want to be.”

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