By Timothy James
Published Aug. 28 2018
There’s been a lot of buzz recently about Highlands East’s proposed bylaw to regulate short-term accommodation in the municipality. Not surprising! Globally this is a hotly contested issue and there’s no reason Highlands East should be any different.
I’m a bit disheartened but not surprised to read about the opposition to this regulation so I’m here to offer a balanced view of this issue from my perspective as: 1) an owner who occasionally rents 2) a holiday-maker that has used holiday rental websites many times 3) a seasonal resident of the county for my whole life and 4) a permanent resident for the last several years.
Here are a few fundamental facts. First existing bylaws are unfortunately insufficient for regulating rental activity largely because of the transient nature of the rental population. Second it’s undeniable that cottage rental can be big business and all business activities that operate in residential zones get regulated. It’s a municipality’s responsibility to protect the primary purpose our residential zones… i.e. living.
Finally and this may surprise you the short-term rental of a residential property is currently not included in our municipal zoning bylaws and therefore is technically not permitted. If we want to keep renting out our cottages this has to change!
However – and this is important – regulating cottage ren tals does not mean stopping or even discouraging them. In fact there is no reason regulation can’t be drawn up to encourage it.
The bottom line is that municipalities must have the power to rein in rental activity in the very small number of cases it becomes problematic either environmentally (e.g. septic and lake health) or socially (i.e. noise parking etc.). A lot of us have been negatively impacted by a very small number of problem rentals but we have all benefited from the large number of responsible rentals. There’s no reason we can’t minimize the former while enabling the latter but for that we need regulation.
The Highland’s East task group assigned to this issue is made up of diverse members representing all stakeholders: affected residents owners of local businesses and people who earn their living in the rental industry. They unanimously support property rental in the county and have aimed for a light-handed approach to regulation.
I’m personally excited about this regulation because it is going to foster a bustling but sustainable cottage rental industry in Highlands East so we can all enjoy everything it has to offer.
I encourage you to contact the municipality with your support of this legislation ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) and/or come along to the Highlands East open house (12-2 p.m.) or public meeting (6 p.m.) at the Lloyd Watson Community Centre this Wednesday in Wilberforce to learn more and offer your feedback.