Short-term rental licenses can cost Bluewater $750

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A draft by-law that would regulate the operation of short-term rental properties in Bluewater is nearing completion.

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A special council meeting was held on January 26 to review a draft of the proposed bylaw to regulate short-term rental properties, which would introduce permits, a demerit system, occupancy limits and more as the municipality is working to address residents’ concerns.

According to a report presented at the meeting, city staff estimate that there are between 300 and 400 short-term rental properties in Bluewater. To regulate such properties, staff proposed an annual fee of $750 to purchase a license for such property. This is intended to cover the costs of licensing, application, monitoring, and any other costs incurred by the program. If 300 of these properties paid a license fee of $750, the municipality would bring in approximately $225,000 in revenue annually through the program.

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As part of setting up the system, city staff recommended the purchase of online software to help track and search for short-term property rentals within Bluewater, which would scan popular sites and apps. , including AirBnB and VRBO, as well as local rental sites. This software was estimated at around $30,000.

The settlement would also introduce a demerit point system, which grants the ability to revoke the licenses of operators who earn demerit points due to issues such as exceeding permitted occupancy, building code violations, and noise by-law convictions.

Fines are also included in the settlement for offenses such as transferring a license ($500), obtaining a license using false information ($500), and operating a short-term rental property. term without license ($750). However, a motion was passed directing staff to pursue potentially higher fines for operating without a permit.

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“Whatever the license fee, if you operate without it, (the fine) must be significantly higher,” Coun said. Bill Whetstone.

Director of Developmental Services Aaron Stewardson said fines must be approved by the Attorney General, but pointed out that the fine can be charged on a daily basis, meaning the costs incurred could quickly add up for someone operating a short-term rental property without a license, even if the fine and license fees are the same.

“It could be considered an abuse of power, but we have the option of issuing multiple fines for one rental,” he said.

As previously reported, a public meeting on October 12 allowed residents and owners of short-term rental properties to share their concerns about the operation of properties in Bluewater, with a focus on Bayfield and the lakefront, as they attract tourists from big cities. like Toronto and London.

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Resident complaints about the properties were about noise, parking, pets, trespassing and fires. But the municipality only started tracking the number of by-law complaints about short-term rental properties in 2021, meaning information on their impact is limited.

Noise complaints have increased at Bluewater, from an annual average of 1.8 complaints from 2014 to 2019 to at least 25 in 2021. Of those 2021 complaints, four were reportedly related to short-term rental properties.

During the October 12 public meeting, owners of short-term rental properties highlighted possible problems with the proposed limits on the number of days a property can be rented out and cautioned against setting a one-week minimum for rentals, stating that many renters are looking to visit Bayfield on weekends. Because of these concerns, staff recommended removing these limits in the final rule.

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Other changes were also made to the draft regulations at the January 26 meeting. A motion was passed removing the creation of an appeals committee from the bylaw, instead letting the board hear appeals of concerns.

Applicants who apply for a license before the regulations are implemented will also be exempt from a potential limit on the number of properties in an area, although no specific limit was set at the meeting. A motion was passed directing staff to prepare a proposal limiting the number of new short-term rental properties based on a percentage of units on each road, as opposed to a 150 meter radius.

Com. Greg Lamport presented a motion proposing an occupancy limit of two people per room.

“It’s the owner’s responsibility not to go overboard,” Lamport said. “If they want to have a party at 2… then they go to the Square. They go somewhere else to celebrate, and when they come back home, there will be 10 of them. The idea is that we respect the other neighbours.

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Some councilors expressed concern that limiting the number of guests allowed in an STR would cause problems with families interested in bringing children and friends for staycations, although a motion was eventually passed asking the staff to include the limit in the regulations.

About occupancy limits, con. Bill Whetstone spoke about problems over Thanksgiving weekend last year, when he said a four-bedroom short-term rental property in Bayfield was hosting 22 guests, who brought 13 vehicles to the community .

“That’s why it has to pass,” Whetstone said.

Councilors also passed a motion maintaining parking restrictions in the bylaw which states that a unit must provide one space while accommodating one to six tenants and provide two spaces while accommodating four to eight tenants.

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The possibility of introducing a municipal accommodation tax was also discussed at the meeting, and a motion was passed directing staff to further investigate how such a tax could be implemented.

While using the northern Bruce Peninsula as an example, County. Tyler Hessel said a municipal lodging tax would further help Bluewater ensure the new licensing program will be cost-neutral for residents.

“(Bruce Peninsula) uses it for economic development,” Hessel said. “Their regulations were passed for short-term rentals in 2021, and they underestimated what their costs would be. Their fees didn’t cover it right away. In the end, it is better to be prepared and say that any surplus goes to economic development.

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“It looks promising too, but at the same time we want to make sure it doesn’t cost too much for some of our guests to come here,” Whetstone said.

Mayor Paul Klopp, who has opposed the idea of ​​an accommodation tax, said he believed staff would already have enough on their plate with the introduction of the new system before exploring a additional tax.

“I don’t think I’m ready to go that far,” he said.

While answering a question from Whetstone about whether information collected via software about the location of short-term rental properties in Bluewater could be made publicly available in hopes of keeping the public informed if he plans to buy properties in the municipality, Stewardson says it would be possible, but the names of the owners could not be included.

Although the regulations lay the groundwork for an expansive system including fines and demerit points, Klopp noted that enforcement would be as strict or lenient as the community dictates.

“Always remember that these settlements are complaint-driven,” Klopp said.

The board will hold another special meeting on Feb. 23 to further discuss the bylaw once the requested changes have been made to the draft.

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