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Friday, June 14, 2024

The two sides to STR issue


Twenty five owners and neighbours expressed their points of view on the proposed Short Term Rental (STR) Licensing Program in Trent Lakes at the first of two special council meetings.

The first meeting was held on the morning of Saturday, June 8th in the municipal council chambers.

Deputy Mayor Carol Armstrong, a member of the working group that developed the strategy, gave an overview of the program at the beginning of the session. She said there are 555 STR properties advertised on various websites.

She said the guiding principles of the program are to:
• Give property owners the option to utilize their properties as short term rentals to help them offset taxes and costs, and support the need for additional accommodation options in Trent Lakes
• Minimize public safety risks—the noise, garbage and parking problems—and the disruption to communities—that can be associated with short term rentals
• Develop a solution that is self-funding and does not increase the tax rate

Armstrong said a licensing program holds owners accountable and responsible, allows licences to be suspended or terminated for repeat offenders, protects neighbourhoods, complements zoning regulations and enhances bylaw enforcement efforts.

The licensing program will be funded by STR operators and not taxpayers.

She said that STRs were the number one issue in the 2022 municipal campaign and the number one topic at five town halls held in 2023.

All proposed STR properties who apply for licences will be inspected for the number of bedrooms, fire safety equipment and exits, parking availability, septic system adequacy, structural safety and potable water.

The 25 individuals who spoke at the meeting included both STR owners and neighbours.

Most owners expressed concerns about what they see as a “one size fits all” approach to licensing and the possibility of excessive complaints from grumpy neighbours.

The STR neighbours who spoke listed the usual issues such as excessive noise, corporate ownership, parking problems, trespassing and large groups of renters staying at one property.

Most questioned whether or not there is any enforcement and wanted to know how this will be handled going forward.

Speaker Anne Bresner told council that the STR problem is mushrooming.

“We’re thinking about moving,” she said. “We don’t want to police what is happening next door.”

STR owner Meagan Boisvert said there are problems in her neighbourhood with the full time residents who make noise, live in trailers and have barking dogs.

“I don’t agree with any of the proposal,” she said.

Owner Adam Blachford said he appreciates that there are some bad actors in the sector but that he tries very hard to respect his neighbours.

“I maintain my property to a higher standard because it is an STR,” he said. “I think this proposal puts undue stress on good actors and what about small business owners who operate out of their homes?”

Cassandra Almeida said she is concerned about how a dwelling is defined because she lives beside a property where the owners currently rent out a yurt and they are planning to build a second yurt.

“Local hotels pay commercial taxes,” she said. “STRs are not charged business taxes.”

Cory Rosenfield said he owns a STR and has formed a corporation for tax and liability purposes.

He questioned septic concerns and said that when a 17 year old has a party with 200 people or when there are private weddings both put more pressure on septic systems.

“I strongly believe in licensing,” he said. “I just don’t think one size fits all solutions.”

Neighbour Lynn Daly summed up the emotional connection people have to Trent Lakes.

“This place is my heart,” she said. “It used to be that all generations of a family crammed ourselves into a two bedroom cottage.”

Daly said she feels badly for families being pestered and abused and added that this issue is pitting communities against each other.

“All I’m asking is for you to consider all the sage advice and pausing to figure out if we can get the best of what everyone has brought forward, “ she added. “Everyone should be respected and responded to.”

The second special council public meeting on the same topic will be held Thursday June 13 in the council chambers beginning at 6 p.m.