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How STRs are being handled in North Simcoe this tourist season

Four municipalities of Midland, Penetanguishene, and townships Tay and Tiny getting ready for short-term rentals in their own ways
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The contentious issue of short-term rental accommodation has many municipalities across the province scrambling to handle impacts – both positive and negative – through regulations and enforcement; North Simcoe is no exception.

Each of the four local municipalities of Midland, Penetanguishene, Tay Township and Tiny Township are preparing for the tourist season along Georgian Bay with their own short-term rental (STR) strategies.


As the largest of the four North Simcoe municipalities, the tourist town of Midland is host to many accommodations regarding restaurants, entertainment, and short-term stays. Bed-and-breakfasts, motels, and hotels service visitors year-round during festivals or as a waypoint by land, water and the nearby Huronia Airport in Tiny Township.

Although not immune to problematic short-term rentals, Midland’s STR issues are greatly reduced compared to its neighbours to the west, east and south; its primary concerns revolve more to lack of affordable housing and a homelessness crisis than to short-term rental issues.

Existing bylaws such as those related to noise, waste disposal, fireworks, and property standards are in effect for handling resident concerns on STRs; additionally, the town added bylaw enforcement for evenings and weekends in the recent budget.

A joint response was provided by manager of municipal law enforcement David Smiley and by executive director of planning, building and bylaw Adam Farr.

"For the 2023 season, Midland will continue to monitor and track requests or complaints and enforce through our existing bylaws. Midland looks forward to observing our neighbours' programs as a learning opportunity should we need to consider any programs or bylaws in the future," stated Smiley and Farr.

"Based on previous years' service requests, the town currently has capacity to manage a similar volume of complaints or requests in 2023. Should STRs become difficult to manage, staff would seek council direction to review options for any future programs including public consultation."

Mayor Bill Gordon reinforced that the town will be watching its neighbours closely.

"Thankfully, Midland is not suffering with a plague of ghost hotels or bad STR owner/operators and we can manage offences using existing framework," said Gordon. "If that changes, we will respond accordingly. I expect firm enforcement for repeat offenders of our noise and property standards as well as fire safety and building codes. Safety and peaceful co-existence in neighbourhoods apply equally to all residents and visitors and lawful uses or property."

Concerns or questions regarding short-term rentals can be directed to the town's customer service department through email, by phoning the municipal office, or by creating a case on the customer portal on the town's website


As a small town with no overnight hotel accommodations, Penetanguishene has been dealing with short-term rentals on two fronts: the scenic waterfront properties of Penetang Harbour, and the business and residential properties within the town and downtown core.

For in-town properties, concerns focusing on limited parking and accessibility for the historic buildings – some of which were constructed in the early parts of the 19th century – have had residents speaking up to issues of ‘party houses’. On the roads along the waterfront, more expensive properties have seen a rise in STR advertisements through rental websites Airbnb and VRBO, prompting council to thoroughly define the differences between short-term rentals and bed-and-breakfasts for their zoning and licensing bylaws.

Planning and community development director Andrea Betty said that those bylaws presented to and revised by council were specific to the needs and issues of Penetanguishene, with one example being an emphasis on fines and penalties as a deterrent for problematic STRs.

"The town intends to hire a seasonal staff member to assist with the processing of licenses and to provide assistance to the bylaw department on administrative and enforcement matters," said Betty. "The intention is to report back to council in the fall of 2023 with comments on implementation."

In 2022, council contracted third-party monitoring company Granicus as the central hub through which STRs are processed and dealt with, "to assist with compliance with the town’s licensing bylaw and a 24-hour-7-days-a-week complaint system that works with staff," Betty added.

"Currently staff are managing STR complaints and licenses without issues. As part of the follow up to council, identified improvements and changes to staffing levels, process improvements, et cetera, will be made."

A comprehensive page for STRs is available on the Penetanguishene website, including rules and regulations, resources, general and specific information, and contacts regarding short-term rentals. Included on the page is information regarding a complaint process which residents can also use.


The quietest of the four municipalities, Tay Township has remained mostly immune to issues of STRs throughout recent years. Residents of Grandview Beach and Paradise Point are the most concerned regarding official plan and zoning bylaw amendments from late last year affecting their properties and those of the neighbouring lands, intended by council to free up development on 20 vacant lots in the area.

Mayor Ted Walker said, "We have been very successful with our current approach implemented after a resident survey and public meeting."

However, he added that the township would continue to approach STR monitoring and enforcement pursuant to existing bylaws, within the municipal ability and legislative authority parameters of noise, parking, and outdoor fires. 

"We are reluctant to implement any measures which in the end would be deemed to be Ultra Vires," stated Walker, referring to the legal term when a corporation oversteps its powers outside of legal authority.

An Enjoy Your Stay in Tay community guide is regularly mailed to known short-term rental operators, encouraging visitors to explore the local attractions while informing readers about various bylaws and regulations which would affect their temporary stay.

Tay Township advises that information on STRs can be obtained through the municipal office by phone or via website, and specific questions are best directed to bylaw enforcement staff.


Perhaps the most contentious hotspot within North Simcoe, Tiny Township has had its share of difficulty wrangling STRs. With a population of 13,000 in the 2021 Census but 19,000 registered voters in the 2022 election, the heavily forested agricultural area is almost entirely residential with few commercial or industrial elements. Properties in proximity to the shoreline are the most valued and most contested when it comes to ‘ghost hotels’.

"The Township of Tiny’s STR licensing program was developed through extensive public consultation from STR operators, those affected by STRs, staff reports, legal opinions and numerous council meetings," responded the township through email.

Council spent two years working on licensing and zoning bylaws. To keep tight reins on STRs in the community, the municipal bylaws have set a limit to 300 approved licences with responsible owners and tenants required to sign a code of conduct for STR usage. Fees to operate STRs are high, occupancy capacities are based on stringent property factors, and usage will be limited throughout the split year during summer and winter.

However, safety of residents is the reasoning behind the strict regulations, according to the township.

"The STR licensing program was initiated by the Township of Tiny to address community concerns and to ensure all rentals operate safely in accordance with the Short-Term Rental By-law 22-017, the Fire Protection Standards, the Ontario Building Code and township bylaws," stated the township.

"The Township of Tiny’s research, public consultation, together with the township’s unique circumstances, informed the process for the development of a STR licensing program and any future considerations regarding the program will be taken into consideration."

Some residents have been vocal against the bylaws for zoning and licensing – lack of enforcement is the latest point of contention – with many taking opportunities to address council on their concerns.

In anticipation of the upcoming tourism season the municipality: Set up a complaints process; hired the Granicus monitoring company and purchasing specialized licensing software to assist in registration and compliance; increased staff levels through the hiring of a licensing officer, building official and fire inspector; increased traditional enforcement staff; and set up an interactive website for residents to learn about STRs in the area.

Throughout the heated accusations of the community against STR bylaws, council had repeatedly asked the public to allow their efforts to play through with the knowledge that modifications could be made once the bylaws were in play and given time to breathe.

A short-term rental page is located on the Tiny Township website for interested parties to access general information and contacts regarding STRs. Within the site is an interactive map of STR licenced applications throughout the township – including address, licence number, responsible person details, occupancy limits, and more – kept updated as licence applications are approved.

For specific inquiries regarding STRs in the township, Tiny staff request the public to contact the licensing officer by email or by calling the municipal office.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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