Short-term rental licences may cost $750 in Bluewater

Short-term rental licences may cost 0 in Bluewater

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BLUEWATER – A draft charter that would govern the operation of short term rental properties (STR) throughout Bluewater is nearing completion.

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A special council meeting was held on January 26 to discuss a draft of the proposed statute regulating STRs, which would introduce licensing, an error system, occupancy limits and more while the community works to address concerns from residents regarding to clear STRs.

According to a report presented at the meeting, community staff estimate there are between 300 and 400 STRs in Bluewater. To regulate these traits, the staff proposed a $750 annual license purchase fee for an STR to cover the cost of licensing, enforcement, STR tracking, and any other costs incurred by the program. If 300 STRs paid a $750 license fee, the program would generate approximately $225,000 in revenue each year for the community.

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As part of setting up the system, city officials recommended purchasing online software to track and search for STRs in Bluewater, which would scan popular websites and apps like AirBnB and VRBO, as well as local rental locations. The cost of this software has been estimated at around $30,000.

The statute would also introduce a penalties system, allowing licenses to be revoked from STR operators who receive penalties for issues such as exceeding an STR’s allowable occupancy, building code violations and noise convictions.

Also included as part of the statute are fines for offenses such as transferring licenses ($500), obtaining a license by providing false information ($500), and operating an STR without a license ($750). However, a motion directing employees to pursue potentially higher fines for operating without a license has been accepted.

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“Whatever the license fee is, if you’re operating without one, (the fine) has to be dramatically higher,” Coun said. Bill Whetstone.

Development services manager Aaron Stewardson said fines must be approved by the Attorney General, but cautioned that the fine could be levied on a daily basis, meaning the costs incurred for an individual operating an STR without a license could quickly add up, even if the fine and the license fees are the same.

“That could be seen as a bit of an abuse of power, but we have an opportunity there that we could issue multiple fines for one rental,” he said.

As previously reported, a public meeting on October 12, 2022 provided an opportunity for local residents and STR owners to voice their concerns about the operation of properties throughout Bluewater, with a focus on Bayfield and the lakefront as they attract tourists from larger cities such as B. attract like Toronto and London.

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Complaints from residents about STRs have included concerns about noise, parking, pets, trespassing and fires. However, the community only began tracking how many statutory complaints involved STRs in 2021, meaning information on their impact is limited.

Noise complaints have increased in Bluewater, going from an annual average of 1.8 complaints from 2014-2019 to at least 25 in 2021. Of those complaints in 2021, four were reported to be related to STRs.

During the October 12 public meeting, STR owners highlighted potential issues with proposed limits on the number of days a property can be rented and warned against setting a one-week minimum for rentals, explaining that many renters like to visit Bayfield on weekends. Because of these concerns, the staff recommended removing these limitations in the final charter.

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Other changes to the draft charter were also made during the January 26 meeting. A motion was passed that removes the establishment of an appeals committee in the bylaws and instead hears appeals of STR concerns from the council.

Applicants applying for a license prior to implementation of the Articles of Association are also exempt from a potential limit on the number of STR properties within an area, although no specific limit was set at the meeting. A motion was accepted directing staff to come up with a proposal that would limit the number of new STRs based on a percentage of dwellings on each street, as opposed to a 150 meter radius.

count. Greg Lamport introduced a motion proposing an occupancy limit of two people per bedroom.

“The onus is on the landlord that they don’t go beyond that,” Lamport said. “If you want to have a party of 14 people… go to the Square. They go somewhere else to have their party and when they come back to the house there will be ten of them. The whole idea is that we respect the other neighbors.”

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Some council members raised concerns about whether limiting the number of guests allowed in an STR would cause problems with families interested in bringing children and friends for stays, although a motion directing staff to remove the limit in adopt the statute.

On the subject of occupancy limits, Coun. Bill Whetstone spoke about problems that arose during last year’s Thanksgiving weekend when he said a four-bedroom STR in Bayfield housed 22 guests bringing 13 vehicles into the community.

“That’s why this has to happen,” Whetstone said.

The councilors also passed a motion to maintain parking restrictions in the bylaws that state a unit must provide a single parking space for one to six tenants and two parking spaces for four to eight tenants.

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The possibility of introducing a municipal lodging tax was also discussed at the meeting, and a motion was adopted directing staff to further investigate how one could be introduced.

Using the Northern Bruce Peninsula as an example, Coun. Tyler Hessel said a city lodging tax would further help Bluewater ensure the new licensing program is cost-free for residents.

“(Bruce Peninsula) uses it for economic development,” Hessel said. “Their bylaws were passed in 2021 for short term rentals and they underestimated their costs. Their fees didn’t cover it right away. At the end of the day, it’s better to be prepared and say that any surplus goes to economic development.”

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“That sounds promising too, but at the same time we want to make sure it doesn’t become too expensive for some of our guests to come here,” Whetstone said.

Mayor Paul Klopp, who opposed the idea of ​​an occupancy tax, said he believed staff had enough to do with the rollout of the new system before considering an additional tax.

“I don’t think I’m ready to go that far,” he said.

In replying to a question from Whetstone about whether the information collected through software about the location of STRs in Bluewater could be made publicly available, in hopes of keeping the public informed if they are considering buying property within the community , Stewardson said that this might be the case, but the names of the property owners could not be included.

Although the statute lays the groundwork for a comprehensive system of fines and penalty points, Klopp noted that enforcement would be as strict or lenient as the community dictated.

“Always remember that these statutes are complaint-driven,” said Klopp.

The council will hold another special meeting on February 23 to further discuss the bylaws after making targeted changes to the draft.

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