Sunday, June 16, 2024

Public Input Being Sought For Short Term Rentals Licensing Bylaw

Like many communities across the province, the Municipality of Meaford has struggled with what to do about short-term rentals, a blossoming industry that, though crucial to the economy of any municipality that relies on tourism resulting in a significant contribution to the local economy, they are not without their negative impacts.

In recent years, council has heard from a handful of residents who are frustrated with a neighbourhood home that has become a short-term rental. Stories of loud, alcohol-fuelled parties at homes rented out by absentee property owners have been shared with council over the course of the last term of council, and in the early days of this current term. Though formal complaints have been few, with just a dozen filed with the municipality over the past three years, council recognizes the issues that neighbouring property owners can face, particularly in the absence of any rules or regulations.

As was made clear during a handful of deputations to council earlier this year, the concerns about short-term rentals by local ratepayers continue to grow, as do voices of support for short-term rentals in a community that lacks an adequate number of traditional accommodations like hotels and motels to serve the needs of those visiting this community.

In June, council took the first steps toward regulating short-term rentals, and gave direction to municipal staff to explore the regulations and licensing bylaws that have been established by other municipalities to use as a framework for the Municipality of Meaford. Council also directed staff to limit the number of public input meetings to one, as they strive to have a bylaw in place before the end of the year.

During the Monday, October 16 meeting of council, staff presented a 17-page report outlining what neighbouring communities, as well as some communities specified by council including the Municipality of Lambton Shores, Prince Edward County, and the Township of Tiny, have done, or are planning to do, to licence or otherwise regulate short-term accommodations.

Also on Monday, the municipality launched a public input survey, and announced details about the upcoming public input sessions to be held on October 24.

The Municipality of Meaford is in the process of considering and adopting a short-term accommodations licensing by-law. This by-law will dictate the terms and conditions that short-term accommodations (such as AirBnBs, cottage rentals, VRBOs, etc.) must follow to operate within the Municipality,” the municipality advised in a press release issued before Monday’s council meeting. “The Municipality has created two forums for the public to give their feedback. First, a public survey will be available between October 16, 2023, and November 5, 2023. You can access the survey online from the link below. Hard copies of the survey are also available and can be picked up at the Administration Office, located at 21 Trowbridge Street, Meaford, during regular hours of operation, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. If you require assistance in filling out the survey or have questions, please email ecdev@meaford.ca, or call Graham Taylor at 519-538-1060 extension 1182.”

In-person community discussion sessions seeking public input will also be held on October 24, 2023, at Meaford Hall. Multiple time slots are available for the public to engage with municipal staff on the issue:

Session A: 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Session B: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Session C: 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Session D: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

You can RSVP by emailing ecdev@meaford.ca and indicate the session you would prefer to attend.

The report presented on Monday provided council with a snapshot of what other communities have done or plan to do, regarding short-term rental properties, and it also offered council a list of best practices identified by staff during their research in preparation for the report to council. Those best practices include:

  • Requiring pre-approval inspections for all STA licenses;
  • Maintaining public STA registries, available on the municipal website;
  • Imposing guest occupancy caps at STA units;
  • Requiring that licensee contact(s) available 24/7 and within a commutable distance in case of infractions or emergencies;
  • Mandating that STA providers provide guests with a code of conduct and relevant municipal by-law information;
  • Mandated parking management plans and adherence to the plan;
  • Utilizing compliance monitoring software as an additional capture for non-compliance; and,
  • Utilizing a demerit point-based enforcement system with a license revocability clause.

During council’s discussions at Monday’s meeting, members of council made clear that they understand that short-term rentals are crucial to Meaford’s economy, while appreciating that without regulations in place, negative impacts of the industry can grow into larger issues.

We’re not against STRs (short-term rentals) at all,” noted Councillor Rob Uhrig. “STRs are a very fundamental part of tourism, and accommodation is very important. It’s more about just having regulations in place to make sure there’s some governance on it.”

The next steps of this project are the upcoming community engagement activities, including the survey and public discussion sessions, before developing recommendations for council’s consideration of a short term accommodations licensing by-law by year end.

For more information, visit www.meaford.ca/STA.

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