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'You’re delusional’: Mayor to supporters of STR bylaw repeal

Enforcement is a big issue, noted those who made deputations; 'We in council are here to move forward,' countered Mayor, saying it's 'shortsighted' to repeal bylaw
Tiny Township located on Balm Beach Road. Staff photo/MidlandToday

Open deputations regarding short-term rentals dominated the conversation in Tiny Township yet again, and it prompted council to take a hard stance on the issue.

Over an hour was devoted to the five-minute open deputation slots as Tiny residents poured in to either criticize short-term rental (STR) regulations from the municipality, to criticize all STR owners, to criticize bad STR owners of ‘ghost hotels’, to criticize other townsfolk, or to criticize the township for failing to act upon bylaws in effect since the start of the year.

However, there was one common criticism which parties from all sides shared: lack of enforcement.

Steve Harvey, Tiny's chief municipal bylaw enforcement officer, confirmed to the committee of the whole that coverage in the summer months ran from Sunday until Thursday until 11 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays until 3 a.m. supported by trending data; changes to those hours would require council reconsideration with staffing and budget implications.

During her deputation, one beleaguered resident explained a party house next to her would wait for the 11 p.m. clock change.

“Without fail, every single night as soon as bylaw was off-duty, out they came. The party started as soon as bylaw was off-duty. These are investors, and they are working around your hours," she explained.

Many residents familiar to the issue reiterated their opposition through deputations or written submissions, but new presenters tended to share the same pre-written refrains: citing a social media survey, claiming council was voted in solely as a ‘unity council’, and urging council to pause the bylaw.

That didn’t sit well with Deputy Mayor Sean Miskimins, who chastised the community for offering a ‘me-first’ complaint without consideration for the community-at-large, or proposing solutions instead of an outright pause for others to deal with.

“We’ve just come out of a budget discussion,” Miskimins began.

“I did some quick calculations – CAO (Robert) Lamb, I think you said there were 46,500 emails sent over a two-year period to the township. I took that at five minutes to respond to each email, times $20… $75,000!" he estimated.

“I was low-balling it probably by half,” Miskimins mused. “So it’s probably $150,000 we’ve spent just on quick response emails. That’s a lot of money on our tax base.”

In submissions to the agenda, some Tiny residents made non-factual claims regarding former deputant Glen Sloutsky from the previous regular committee of the whole meeting; several other deputations corrected those falsehoods. As a counter, they noted that one Tiny resident alone had reported 46 complaints against STRs, and that any claims that a community was in opposition was mis-attributed and instead should be borne to that lone actor.

Even Coun. Kelly Helowka incorrectly noted that municipal bylaw officers could unlawfully enter the premises of an STR; he was immediately corrected that only fire inspectors could enter premises. 

Coun. Steffen Walma took misinformation to task as he supported looking into the community providing solutions.

“We have inspections for septic; not because I care about how many people are there – it’s about the water, an environmental issue, so that’s in there,” said Walma. “We have fire inspections. The number of places I’ve been to that have absolutely terrible life safety mechanisms in the house – hoarding houses, they exist in our STRs as well – it’s a safety issue. Someone has to be accountable for that.”

The issue of council supporting a pause on the bylaw wasn’t an option, as Mayor Dave Evans felt compelled to remind the public. 

“We in council are here to move forward,” said Evans. “The people that want to repeal the bylaw: I think you’re very shortsighted; frankly I think you’re delusional.

“We were in chaos three years ago. That’s why we created this commission, this group, why we came up with a bylaw. We had a complete cross-section of viewpoints in the community to create the bylaw that we have," Evans said.

“To go back? As someone who manages a company, I want to go back to that chaos three years later and say: ‘We’ll just come up with something’? That’s bad management; that’s me absolving myself of responsibility and saying we’ll just see what happens. We’re not here to do that, you people in Tiny aren’t here to do that. We’re here to take responsibility, and when we do that we move forward,” Evans stated.

To conclude the matter, Evans pointed out the two conversations at hand of the bylaw and of enforcement. He noted that council would move forward with the bylaw “with open ears”, and if enforcement isn’t being implemented “to the letter of the law” then changes would be in order.

Short-term rental information, including policies and bylaws, are available on the municipal website.

Written submissions and submitted deputation packages regarding short-term rentals can be viewed within the agenda page located on the Tiny Township website.

Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny Township’s 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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