Pemby council hears regulation options for short-term rentals 

Staff recommends a 'blended' approach to tackling complex issue

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After much deliberation and extensive community consultation, the Village of Pemberton (VOP) is getting closer to regulating short-term vacation rentals.

At its Sept. 12 Committee of the Whole meeting, VOP council was presented with a report on potential management options.

Staff is recommending a "blended" approach to regulation, beginning with developing a clear definition of what "short-term vacation rental" actually refers to.

After hearing a report from senior planner Lisa Pedrini, council directed staff to implement the regulations in a new draft zoning bylaw, which would permit short-term rentals under certain conditions.

Under those conditions, short-term rentals would only be permitted in zones that currently allow bed and breakfasts; in principal dwellings (unless the owner receives a Temporary Use Permit allowing them the use in a secondary suite — the TUPs would allow the use for two years before renewal, and allow for specific conditions to be added as necessary, with the goal being to keep the majority of secondary suites available for long-term rental).

Under the proposed conditions, short-term rentals would be restricted to a maximum of two guests per bedroom and eight per house, and must provide one off-street parking space per bedroom rented.

Operators would need a business licence (which would cost more than a normal business licence and include zoning, building and fire safety inspections), of which only a certain amount would be issued every year, for each neighbourhood and each street — applications would be accepted on a first come, first-served basis.

Operators would also be required to pay a $2,500 "infraction deposit," which would be used in case of complaints requiring staff time, and enter into a "good-neighbour agreement" (details of which are still being developed).

Operators would be subject to the same utility rates as bed and breakfasts, but would not be required to serve breakfast.

Amendments to the VOP's Business Licence and Municipal Ticketing bylaws would follow.

Councillor Ted Craddock voted against the proposed regulations, saying he was "totally against" having short-term rentals in town, and couldn't agree with changing the whole structure of the community to accommodate a small handful of people.

"If council agrees to go down this road, I think it has to be a very serious decision — are we going to change neighbourhoods to suit a few people?" he asked, adding that there's a short-term rental operating on his street that at times has had upwards of 11 cars parked out front.

People who moved to Pemberton didn't do so to live in commercial neighbourhoods, he added, and noted that legitimizing short-term rentals isn't fair to existing "brick and mortar" lodgings that pay taxes and higher assessment rates.

"I think it's the wrong thing to do," he said. "Why are we changing our community and causing this (many problems) and apparently this much cost (for enforcement) going forward, and maybe court action?"

Other members of council saw things differently, arguing that implementing a blanket prohibition or ignoring the issue altogether might make things worse for the VOP.

"I think we need to recognize that Airbnbs are not going away... it's a reality, it's here, and a lot of people want to travel that way," said Mayor Mike Richman, adding that if the VOP said no altogether it would likely just happen anyway, and the village would miss out on potential income raised through regulation.

"It's not us at this table that's changing this community, it's being changed by external forces," added Coun. Karen Ross.

"We need to find a way to deal with them and to help our community be regulated and be safe and be fair to the other businesses that have operated for a long time... I think that's what this is all about, and if we stick our head in the sand, we're going to end up being really unfair to the community, I believe."

The VOP's work on the new zoning bylaws began in January, with staff reviewing the approach used in other municipalities.

In July, the Whistler Centre for Sustainability was brought on board to help with public engagement.

The draft zoning bylaws are currently under review by VOP staff, and will be presented at a community open house this fall.


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