County council has found a contractor to oversee the short-term rental bylaw that looks to be near finalization at the upper-tier, before going to Algonquin Highlands, Dysart et al, Highlands East and Minden Hills for expected adoption.

While the company was not named at a Jan. 24 meeting, it is believed to be Granicus, the same company that handles the file for Niagara-on-the-Lake, Georgian Bay Township, Kawartha Lakes and Lake of Bays.

They were the sole bidder after council put out an RFP Nov. 9, and were chosen by a committee Dec. 19.

Director of planning, Steve Stone, said the company will register all active STRs and drive bylaw compliance. They would also collect the municipal accommodation tax, if adopted by councils.

Stone said they “can provide a full suite of surveillance software modules, including address identification, license compliance monitoring, permitting and registration, 24-hour hotline service and STR activity monitoring.”

When all the townships have signed off on the hire, Stone said they will let Granicus know they are the selected bidder.

The contract would be for three years, with the townships splitting the cost; Dysart just over $130,000, with Highlands East, Algonquin Highlands and Minden Hills just over $60,000 a year. It’s estimated Dysart has 515 STRs, with HE at 253, AH at 287 and MH at 297.

Stone noted implementation will take 22-24 weeks, which puts council’s wish of a spring start in jeopardy. They hope it can be ready to go for the May 24 weekend.

Warden Liz Danielsen said she was disappointed in the timeline “as I’m sure a number of those who have been concerned about short-term rentals are in the time that it takes to get this going live.” She asked if there was any way to move it along in time for the May 24 weekend.

Acknowledging it is about six months of lead time, director of economic development, Scott Ovell, said one benefit is it gives the townships time to communicate what they are doing.

CAO Gary Dyke said he is meeting with the other CAOs and relevant staff Feb. 12, and will provide a verbal report Feb. 14. Dyke said, “I think whatever we can do to accelerate the program, we will do that.”

Dyke added, “in fairness to the people that are being impacted by these bylaws, once the documentation has been passed and adopted by the municipalities, it’s also inherent upon us to develop an implementation program.”

He said there would be education on the application and inspection processes, for example. “Everything related to it would be part of a document or communication piece that would go to the users. So, it’s not like we’re going to pass it and cross our fingers, but work with the lower-tiers, work with the users of the bylaw…

Elizabeth Oakley, who spoke to Highlands East council in opposition to the passing of the bylaw, said they have a petition that is nearing 700 signatures.

She said they are “requesting a pause to the County’s STR legislation. Things are in flux with some councillors beginning to see how discriminatory, unfair and costly it will be for STR hosts. There have been numerous emails and phone calls made to members of all the municipalities as well as County Council,” she said.

Oakley added, “this issue will have a negative impact on tourism in our region, which goes against what the elected officials say they’re trying to attract.”

However, as recently as the Jan, 10 meeting, all councillors expressed interest in going forward.