/AH to consider short-term rental regulations 

AH to consider short-term rental regulations 

By Chad Ingram

Algonquin Highlands council will consider the creation of a bylaw to regulate short-term rentals within the the township, with the municipality undertaking an associated public consultation process before any such bylaw is passed.
Councillors discussed the issue for about an hour and half during a special meeting held July 10, that meeting taking place via online conferencing platform Zoom and broadcast on YouTube.
The township is undertaking a review of its zoning bylaw, and, as planning consultant Greg Corbett noted, currently its official plan contains no specific provisions dealing with short-term rentals, which have become increasingly popular in recent years, often advertised through the internet. Corbett said the township has received a number of complaints about short-term rentals, as well as inquiries questioning whether or not they are permitted. He also noted that in many cases, renting a property out on a short-term basis allows property owners to carry that property in general, helping to offset expenses such as property taxes and maintenance.
“It allows them to maintain it,” he said.
A number of municipalities have begun to look at the regulation of short-term rentals within their borders, with some establishing bylaws. Notably, the Town of the Blue Mountains established a policy governing short-term rentals in its official plan in 2009. That policy was subject to an Ontario Municipal Board appeal, which was ultimately dismissed, with some tweaks made to the regulations. The Town of the Blue Mountains’ policy designates certain areas where short-term rentals are permitted, stipulates that owners must acquire a licence through the municipality, and abide by other requirements including occupant load maximums, a site plan, and separation requirements. The framework also entails a demerit point system, whereby owners earn demerits for infractions such as noise complaints. However, Corbett added that demerit system has also caused some complications, since appeal processes need to be undertaken if a property owner disputes the validity of a complaint.
“They’re learning by fire, and they’re looking at doing some changes, potentially,” Corbett told councillors.
Locally, within the County of Haliburton, most of its other lower-tier municipalities have begun some form of discussion or consultation regarding the regulation of short-term rentals. The Municipality of Highlands East had developed a task force, conducted surveys and held public meetings on the issue going back to 2018, however, no policy has been put in place. The Township of Minden Hills had also had discussion and undertaken a survey and the Municipality of Dysart et al had plans to undertake a similar process. Corbett told councillors it was his understanding the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed some of that work.
Managing a licence system and complaints for short-term accommodations requires municipal staff, and Corbett said that in the case of the Town of the
Blue Mountains, it has one staff person for about every 100 rental licences.
A list of some known short-term accommodations within Algonquin Highlands totalled just less than 100, with Mayor Carol Moffatt noting that number was actually higher, since not everyone advertises on the internet and that some rentals are conducted just through word of mouth.
“So, there is definitely a cost involved,” Moffatt said, asking Corbett if he thought the regulations in the Town of the Blue Mountains was working for that municipality.
“As with everything, there have been some plusses and minuses,” Corbett said, adding that while the licensing system seems to work well, it’s been dealing with challenges to noise complaints that seem to be an obstacle.
All in, including the OMB hearing, Corbett said the creation and enforcement of its short-term rental regulation has cost the Town of the Blue Mountains about $1 million.
Moffatt noted that many short-term accommodations have owners and renters who play by the rules and don’t cause any issue, but that in other cases, there seem to be repeated instances of complaints.
“Some of those bad actors are the landlords,” she said, adding that there are some cases of absentee property owners who don’t seem concerned about the complaints their rental properties are generating. “It’s the behaviour of those renting it. It’s the behaviour of people.”
Moffatt said the township can’t pick and choose which properties it deals with, and must create a policy that is consistent across the board. “To me, it feels a bit like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall,” she said.
However, Moffatt, and most other councillors, were supportive of at least doing something at the municipal level.
“I’m interested in hearing public opinion,” said Councillor Lisa Barry, who
added she’d need to hear more before agreeing that the township needed to go to the length of a separate, formal bylaw dealing with short-term accommodations. Councillor Jennifer Dailloux owns a lodge in Oxtongue Lake and recused herself from the conversation.
The majority of council favoured the concept of exploring official plan/zoning amendments along with some sort of licensing system for short-term accommodations, and Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen said she was interested in the demerit point system used in the Town of the Blue Mountains.
There will opportunities for public consultation – both a survey and public
meeting whereby residents could participate by telephone were mentioned
last week – and Corbett will be bringing further information back to council regarding a draft policy and public consultation proposal.