It was as much a fulsome discussion as it was a fulcrum discussion.
Wrapping up the Tiny Township short-term-rental task force was a final presentation to council, following open deputations from the public as well as hearty discussion afterwards.
Originating last year when a municipal law enforcement report including a short-term rental (STR) survey and feedback gained approval from council, the group's objectives throughout were to review: the situation and impacts of STRs in the municipality; the licensing bylaw (LBL) and renters code of conduct for input and feedback; and potential official plan (OP) and zoning regulations as part of the framework.
But whether it was the public or the municipality and staff, two concepts continually emerged in the recent four-hour meeting: finding a balance, and locating the tipping point between residential and commercial usage of rentals.
Residents provided open and scheduled deputations to council in the evening, with many having read the draft bylaw and raising repeated questions toward enforcement as well as the timeframe for allowing STR operations.
CAO Robert Lamb, who chaired the task force, provided an overview of the six meetings over six months during which group members reviewed and asked questions, of the legal opinion from Barriston Law LLP senior associate Sarah Hahn, and planning opinions from Jamie Robinson, land use planner and partner with MHBC Planning Urban Design & Landscape Architecture.
“As you know, we are not alone,” stated Mayor George Cornell. “Many municipalities are dealing with STRs. And as you’ve heard from a number of the folks that spoke this evening, we have – if you will – the two extremes; where some want no short-term-rentals, and some want no regulations around short-term-rentals.
“It’s our job (as council) to try to find that balance; what makes the most sense for our community as a whole.”
Through an OP amendment, Robinson recommended an enabling policy framework be included to allow council to enact a zoning bylaw (ZBL) amendment and a licensing program.
“What we’ve recognized is that… the renting of cottages has occurred for years in Tiny Township,” said Robinson. The intent of the OP and ZBL amendments with a licensing regime “is to try to establish a balanced approach to regulation,” recognizing the historic nature of residential areas while providing opportunity to rent dwelling units responsibly but with added criteria.
Several worried residents noted a definition for STR included the secondary use of a residential dwelling unit for 28 consecutive days or fewer with no on-site management through all or part of the year. It was a definition that confused council as well, which Robinson laughed off as requiring added punctuation for clarity.
“The ‘all or part of the year’ really refers to the 28 consecutive days piece,” Robinson noted, “and the ‘on-site management’ is intended to be a standalone component of that definition.” He added that on-site management in that span would define it as a bed-and-breakfast.
Planning director Shawn Persaud stated, “The secondary use piece; our goal there was to draw a line in the sand, to differentiate residential from commercial because of the historic use of individuals renting cottages… versus the purpose-used ‘ghost hotels’.”
Council discussed the recommended STR period of a minimum consecutive of six days up to 28 days, and a proposed allowance of around 92 days, but handed that to staff to explore and return with at a later date.
Hahn noted that what the LBL set out to achieve was within the authority and jurisdiction of the municipality.
Chief municipal law enforcement officer Steve Harvey spoke about the enforcement aspect of approximately 400 STR operators in Tiny, and how licence issuing would be addressed.
“We’ve been in contact with Granicus Host Compliance regarding their program,” Harvey explained. “They’re specialists in assisting municipalities that are looking at regulating STR.”
Coun. John Bryant took note of resident concerns on whether enforcement would be done correctly through summer students and weekend lapses.
Lamb replied that council had approved a full-time bylaw officer position during budget, and that would bring enforcement coverage immediately from morning through past midnight over the summer, from Wednesdays to Sundays, with summer students covering the remainder.
“Our intent is that the program would be funded by the STR operators,” added Lamb. “We have had conversations with Granicus as to what other municipalities set their licensing fees should be, and it’s generally ‘what would be three days of rental for your community on average’, so we’re anticipating a rental fee would likely be recommended in the range of $750 to $1,000 for the annual license plus additional inspection fees.”
While council discussed the maximum number of licences issued for the roughly 400 current STR operators, 300 was offered as an easy-to-handle suggestion with an acknowledgement that as “bad apple” operators would be unable or unwilling to comply with licensing requirements or zoning bylaws, the amount of licences issued would reduce naturally.
Upon completion of the meeting, council directed staff to prepare a report for the next regular meeting of council on May 18. Staff were to look at licensing and fees; to enter into an agreement with Granicus for implementation of the program; and to revise the proposed LBL for 300 maximum licences, a maximum occupancy of 10 guests or less as sewage permits, and a legal opinion regarding an STR blackout period during rental days.
Full details of the short-term-rental task force, draft zoning and official plan recommendations, draft licensing bylaw, and resident correspondences can be found in the agenda page located on the Tiny Township website.
Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny Township’s YouTube channel.