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Tiny’s first short-term rental task force fails to find footing

Initial information session hampered by apparent accusation by citizen against accredited planner
Tiny Township's Short Term Rental Task Force member Steve Saltsman (middle row, center) was stiffly reminded of code of conduct by Chair and CAO Robert Lamb (top row, right), after Saltsman made offensive accusations to planner Jamie Robinson of MHBC Planning (bottom row, left) during the initial meeting of the committee.

Short-term rentals are a problem all across the landscape, with Tiny organizing a task force to help navigate a path forward to a workable solution.

Its first obstacle came from within.

Tiny resident Steve Saltsman was invited to the STR Task Force this summer after an in-depth deputation to council.

During the group's first meeting, Saltsman chose to continue his summer deputation by directly challenging the two invited consultants: Sarah Hahn, senior associate with Barriston Law LLP, and Jamie Robinson, land use planner and partner with MHBC Planning Urban Design & Landscape Architecture.

“My concerns are a little more fundamental and a little bit off-base from what the agenda has set out,” Saltsman stated to the committee.

“From my perspective, I believe the basic legality of STRs under the existing bylaw regime in Tiny Township… renders them illegal,” said Saltsman to Hahn.

Committee chair and CAO Robert Lamb stepped in to affirm, “The reality is that for the last 11 years, the township has indicated publicly that they are legal.”

“There isn’t any doubt in my mind that the legal opinion and planning opinion that have been put forward are correct,” verified Hahn. “STRs are something that are happening in the municipality, and do fit within the current zoning bylaw.”

The committee consists of Lamb, councillors Cindy Hastings and Gibb Wishart, and four non-elected citizen members consisting of two STR property owners in Joanne Rooke and George Kawaolis, and two non-STR property owners in Dan O'Rouke and Saltsman.

The purpose of the task force is to: Review the current STR situation and its impacts in Tiny; review the proposed STR accommodation licensing bylaw and renter’s code of conduct and provide input and feedback; review potential Official Plan and zoning regulations as part of the overall STR regulation framework; and to report back to council on findings and recommendations as a result.

Rooke provided personal investigations on other municipalities’ handling of STRs, which Lamb assured were looked at among many other similar inquiries by Tiny staff for council. Robinson asked the committee to look into what the tipping point would be where a property shifts between residential and commercial use to define STRs within Tiny planning.

The committee sat patiently to listen to each other’s words except for Saltsman. Upon his turn to speak, Saltsman addressed Robinson with a series of lead-off questions regarding the planner’s involvement with Severn Township, which caused almost everyone in the committee to react with disbelief.

Robinson responded that he was the planning consultant for a group which appealed Oro-Medonte’s bylaw amendment. “It’s a pretty defined piece, a limited scope piece of legislation, that strictly addresses a definition in the zoning bylaw. It’s very, very succinct.”

“Yes,” Robinson added, “I’m representing that group against that bylaw change because I don’t believe it’s good planning.”

Saltsman challenged Robinson, “Do you not see that as somewhat of a conflict?”

Robinson retorted, “Not at all. There’s been no bylaw amendment proposed in Tiny Township; they haven’t even got to that point yet,” adding an opinion that Tiny not adopt the approach Oro-Medonte took.

Lamb reminded Saltsman that both Hahn and Robinson were the township’s consultants, and that the municipality was fully aware of the legalities of all its contracts.

Having enough, Robinson firmly asserted his status as a registered professional planner abiding by a code of ethics and conduct. “I do take exception to your comments, Mr. Saltsman, and I suggest you retract them.”

When Saltsman attempted to repeat the line of questioning, Robinson threw the citizen’s words back at him.

“You said it yourself," Robinson said. "You’ve looked at the surface of it, you haven’t looked at the details of what’s being done in Oro-Medonte versus where we are in this process here. You’ve only looked at it superficially, and I suggest you stop right there. It’s offensive what you’re saying right now.”

Lamb cut them off to get to the remaining agenda items, as Saltsman shuffled papers in dismissive protest.

Hastings requested the committee look collectively at the STR solutions from other municipalities upon return to the next meeting scheduled for October 26. Lamb asked the members to look at the draft licensing bylaw and the code of conduct, and the meeting was adjourned.

A request from MidlandToday to speak with both Lamb and Saltsman wasn’t returned at the time of this article.

Agendas and minutes of Short Term Rental Task Force committee meetings are available on the Tiny Township website page.

Archives of the STR Task Force meetings can be found on the Tiny Township YouTube channel.

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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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