The first reading of the short term rental (STR) Bylaw 2828 received plenty of feedback at the Jan. 8 meeting of Rossland city council.
Council voted to amend the bylaw after an invested group of about 20 short-term-rental operators attended council’s public input period and all expressed their opposition to the proposed bylaw restricting STRs in Old Town Rossland.
Currently, there are 37 licenced short-term rental properties in Old Town. Nine of the properties would not be affected by the changes to the bylaw because they are in principal residences, leaving 28 properties that would be impacted.
One Old Town STR operator commented on the arbitrary nature of the changes to the bylaw, and how it would impact their respective businesses.
Another asked if the city had done a market study on STRs and their economic benefit, estimating that STRs bring in about $2M to the Golden City every year, particularly the Old Town core.
“There seems to be the idea that there are these wealthy out of town STR owners that are ruining the town,” said another STR operator. “I can tell you, I’ve lived here for 16 years, we are certainly not wealthy. This represents a 35 per cent reduction in our annual salary. What family can take a 35 per cent reduction and still manage to live here?
“If we want to make affordable housing, this is very much making life unaffordable for me and 27 other families.”
At the Nov. 20 meeting, council directed staff to amend the bylaw as a result of the growing affordable housing crisis and dwindling supply of long-term rentals, while at the same time preserving the character of Old Town Rossland.
The proposed changes include allowing STRs in principal residences only, while prohibiting them in secondary suites and detached secondary suites. The amended bylaw will remove the zoning amendment requirement and one per block cap, and apply the new regulations to all existing STR zoned properties (no grandfather clause).
Similar concerns were shared by several other STR operators with many maintaining that at very least there should be a grandfather clause for existing licenced STRs.
This gave council pause and a moment to reconsider the amendments during the regular council meeting.
Coun. Craig Humpherys went on record saying he would like the city to be more open to STRs.
“I don’t really understand why Rossland has to be more strict than provincial guidelines. I believe we should be allowed to use alleyway homes, suites, and carriage homes as STRs, and to create a set of rules that only allow STRs within the rooms of one home effectively kill the business.”
Humpherys pointed to the city’s STR survey, and said he saw no evidence supporting a stricter policy on STRs.
“After 18 months, why are we penalizing existing STR operators that have done nothing wrong?”
Coun. Mya Provencal spoke passionately about the need for limiting STRs and promoting long-term rentals and affordable housing projects. She cited a number of studies that show the impact STRs have on affordability.
“To support a permissive approach to STR regulations would be to go against my commitment to evidence-based decision making,” said Provencal.
“I don’t believe that leaving this up to the market would look out for the needs of marginalized individuals.”
Provencal did concede that a grandfather clause for existing STRs is the most equitable way to proceed.
Coun. Jeff Weaver had previously put forth the motion to prohibit a grandfather clause, however, after hearing STR operators, he reconsidered.
“I would also like to propose an amendment to this bylaw that the licences that exist are not transferable when we sell the home,” said Weaver. “I do not want to penalize anyone that is running one at this moment, but I definitely do not want to see any more than what we have in Old Town right now.”
Coun. Eliza Boyce said she has seen the negative effects of STRs in ‘resort’ communities like Squamish and Canmore and does not want to see Rossland go down the same road.
Coun. Stewart Spooner said he was happy with the provincial regulations and does not support grandfathering the current STR licences.
“Essentially they (owner/operators) are going to have a very exclusive opportunity to make money, with obviously a high demand there, and they will have this very limited and very exclusive right in-perpetuity,” said Spooner.
“I would just allow it for everybody.”
Coun. Lisa Kwiatkowski said the OCP is clear, but she did not believe that STRs were the only contributor to the issues of long-term housing. Still, she thought the current bylaw was going in the right direction and until further housing studies are done in Rossland, she would support some type of grandfather clause.
Mayor Andy Morel also weighed in, saying that he was also sympathetic to the grandfather clause, but would like to emphasize the need for long-term rentals.
“We are not looking to restrict STRs, we are looking to restrict certain types of STRs, and most of you here tonight have suites or carriage houses and that’s the type of STR we are going to restrict going forward,” said Morel.
He added that the province has said that they are actually going to incentivize carriage houses and people putting in suites, by providing financial benefits in the near future to promote long-term housing options.
After more discussion, council approved the first reading, 5-2, with Humpherys and Spooner against.
Coun. Weaver then made a motion to amend the bylaw so that existing licences would not be impacted, but were not transferable and would expire when the property was sold. The motion passed with Spooner and Humpherys against.
More to come …