Back to the drawing board on short-term rental bylaw
Questions arising over flawed public consultation.
West Nipissing council is going back to the drawing board when it comes to the new short-term rental (STR) bylaw.
The controversial AirBnB policy which was first proposed by staff at the end of last summer has faced a lot of pushback from residents who see this bylaw as overly restrictive.
In December, council had further discussions on this new bylaw and it appeared that many aspects of the new policy were not fully understood. Among them were the limits on how many short-term rentals a person could operate and which areas of the city would be off-limits.
As was reported on earlier this week, one bizarre amendment appears to restrict STRs in arbitrary locations and lakefronts.
At the December 5th meeting council did not seem to know if the limits on STR licences would be per property or per individual. They also did not know what properties would be grandfathered and what exactly grandfathering would even mean. Council and staff could also not properly answer what licencing would entail or even how much a licence would cost to buy or renew. A demerit points system was discussed to penalize those who don’t follow the rules, but when the mayor asked if these points would carry over year-to-year, the clerk was not sure.
So at this week’s council meeting, staff proposed to council that an ad hoc committee be created to “hash out” the details of the proposed new bylaw.
Mayor Kathleen Thorne-Rochon proposed that this committee consist of herself along with Councillor Anne Tessier and Katelyn Nicol. Although questions have arisen over possible conflicts of interest with Thorne-Rochon and this proposed policy, council did not seem to object to this suggestion so the committee was formed.
Yesterday I asked this new committee if their meetings would be open to the public or if any existing STR operators could participate. I was informed that these meetings would be closed. The rationale was that public consultation had already occured on this matter.
Questions Regarding Public Consultation
To justify some of the most restrictive aspects of the new bylaw, council has used the results of an online survey that was supposedly conducted in early fall. In their report to council in December, staff indicated that they conducted an online survey and obtained 57 responses.* This survey appears to have been posted on the municipal website from October 10th to 19th but nearly every person I have spoken to on this subject were not aware of this survey. So it appears it was not properly conducted or advertised.
*Only 34 total respondents agreed that STR licences should even be required in West Nipissing.
The only time the municipality mentioned this survey on social media was on October 19th. The very last day that consultations would be open. This would explain why only 57 people had the time to share their views.
Most residents don’t actively go to to the municipal website so it is bizarre that staff waited until the last day to share this survey on it’s social media platform.
Considering West Nipissing has over 15,000 residents, 57 respondents is not indicative of the public opinion. Council is relying on 37 people who filled out an online survey saying they want STR operators to get a licence to create this very burdensome bylaw that will require added staff and pose significant restrictions on the tourism industry.
Many are hoping that council considers attempting a second survey with more accurate results. This would be a cost-free solution to help move forward on this issue.
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