STR sky will not fall

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Enough with the chicken little.

The sky will not fall if all four townships sign off on the short-term rental bylaw.

With word spreading that a bylaw is imminent, short-term rental operators are coming out of the woodwork making emotional pleas for why they should be able to continue to run unregulated businesses in areas that are not commercially-zoned.

They have had it good for a very long time – and now do not want their nest-eggs disturbed.

One delegate to a Highlands East meeting this week said they’d only made $6,000 in their first year of renting. Only $6,000. How could they possibly pay a $500-a-year licensing fee?

Let me preface my comments by saying I am not anti-short-term rental. I do believe STRs offer needed accommodation in the Highlands. I have stayed in many out-of-town ones. However, I do have an issue with the fact that hundreds, if not thousands of them, are essentially operating illegally with no remuneration to local government.

I believe the townships are within their rights to charge an annual fee. The detractors argue there are bylaws already in place that can be used, such as noise, parking and fireworks. Many of these people are fairly new to the area so may not understand that some of our townships only have one or two bylaw enforcement officers. They are not just answering STR complaints. These folks are chasing dogs on the run, monitoring trailers and sea cans, trying to find the folks lighting fireworks when they shouldn’t and ensuring property standards. Check out a Highlands East bylaw report on an agenda and you can easily see there are not enough people to do all of the jobs required. The reason is County townships don’t have the money for the hires. The idea behind the licensing fee is to generate enough money to bolster their ranks.

Further, there has been somewhat of a movement the last few years to better protect our waterways. After all, without healthy lakes, we are nothing. So, how can someone argue against a bylaw that ensures STRs are not over-populated, thus putting a strain on holding tanks and septics – which up phosphorous in lakes and lead to tourism-killing algae blooms?

What is wrong with ensuring these STRs are up to code and safe for renters?

The STR operators now vigorously fighting legislation need to look beyond their personal needs. As said, they have had it good for a long time. They’ve made substantial income. It is time to pay the piper.

Let’s emphasize that the townships are not planning to make money off of the STR bylaw. They simply want to cover the costs of making sure they are safe and not harming our lakes. They do not want taxpayers subsidizing a STR program.

Is the bylaw perfect? Of course not. But how can the County get a handle on the industry – and make no doubt about it, it is an industry – without dipping their toes in.

Starting in August, we should have a better idea of how many short-term rentals there are in the County. The first year will expose the problems with the bylaw. The County will then refine as needed. The Highlands isn’t exactly going rogue here folks. Short-term rental bylaws exist in numerous Ontario and Canada townships.

It’s time we all sucked it up for the common good. And if a STR owner out there cannot make it work, is it the worst thing in the world that they might have to sell? After all, we are desperate for housing in the Highlands and STRs are contributing to a desperate shortage.