Minden a step closer to STR program

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Minden Hills has taken steps towards moving a short-term rental bylaw forward. Council awarded the contract for monitoring and compliance to Granicus Canada Holdings, and is reassigning one staff member for a year to quarterback the township side of things.

While the bylaw has been spearheaded by County council, the four lower-tier municipalities will now take it on going forward. They are all in the process of signing off on the third-party contractor and figuring out what resources they will need for when the bylaw is finally passed. It is coming back to Minden Hills council Feb. 29.

CAO Cynthia Fletcher told a Feb. 8 regular council meeting, Granicus would use software to scan vacation home rental websites to determine numbers. They can identify addresses, track compliance, revenue and trends, and develop a database for the township.

Further, Fletcher said they can notify operators of registration and permit requirements, provide an online portal, notify noncompliant operators, and staff, of infractions and consequences, and provide education. They would have a 24/7 hotline where residents can report, prove, and resolve non-emergency STR-related problems.

If the County and its townships also give the green-light to a municipal accommodation tax, Fletcher said Granicus would also head that up.

“Granicus is a major player in the short-term rental sector, helping communities to address STR monitoring and compliance needs. The firm provides services to over 500 cities and counties across North America, including Huntsville, Lake of Bays, Ramara, Orillia, Georgian Bay, Tiny, Collingwood, and Penetanguishene. Staff have no concerns awarding the service contract to Granicus,” Fletcher said.

She noted the cost of the service, for both Granicus (estimated at just over $60,000 for three years) and the township, would be fully recovered through STR license fees.

Fletcher said they would also need a dedicated staff person for enforcement and inspections. She said this person would be the point of contact with Granicus, help build the Minden Hills program, administer the program, act as the point of communication with operators, and lead the enforcement of STR bylaws. Fletcher suggested a 12-month secondment of a municipal staff member to focus on the development of the program. They’ll look to a permanent position in future.

Coun. Bob Sisson queried the staff ask, saying the STR program has not even begun. However, Fletcher replied, “if we do not dedicate a resource to this, I have nobody to run this program.” She said other townships with STR programs have staff.

She added, “there is no shortage of work around us, and it’s not the type of program, if we want it to be successful, that people can do off the side of their desks.” She emphasized the person will oversee enforcement of complaints.

Fletcher said the target for starting applications and licensing is August.

She reminded staff and the public the license fee is $500-a-year. With Minden Hills conservatively estimated to have 297 rentals, that would mean $148,500 in revenue. For now, township costs for initial set-up are pegged at $90,588.

Mayor Bob Carter said the program was never meant to be a revenue-generator, but to cover costs. “We wanted to ensure that not one taxpayer dollar was spent on this.”

Coun. Ivan Ingram said he thinks there will be more than 297 short-term rentals, and Carter agreed.

Coun. Pam Sayne expressed hope the seconded employee might be able to monitor “how short-term rentals generally are affecting our long-term full-time housing.”

Dysart has also signed off on Granicus, while Algonquin Highlands and Highlands East have yet to do so.