By James Matthews
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Designing rules to govern short-term property rentals in Haliburton County has proven to be an arduous task.
The newly-elected county council received an update when it met Nov. 23 on progress made to regulate short-term rentals.
A consultant hired by the county prepared a final report for the previous county council’s consideration in October. The consultant made a number of recommendations about the format of the draft registration and licensing bylaw.
Steve Stone, the county’s director of planning, said staff will provide the new council with a detailed status report on this project in the near future. The primary purpose of that report will be to receive direction from this council on its priorities with respect to moving forward on this project.
Steve D’Eon spoke to council about the subject of short-term rentals. He described to council what some other municipalities and upper-tier councils have done to regulate the practice.
“It’s not an easy issue,” D’Eon said. “Municipalities all across vacationland Ontario struggle with (short-term rentals).”
Waterfront short-term rentals that are not zoned properly and are annoying their neighbours. They’re waterfront properties that are rented to strangers to generate weekly income for the owners.
“The owner has no ties to the lake other than the income (the property) generates,” D’Eon said.
The county doesn’t know how many party STRs it has operating within its boundaries. For the sake of argument, D’Eon said, assume there are as many as 3,000 properties are offered as STRs within the Haliburton region.
“The vast majority of these are not problem party houses,” he said. “The good actors greatly contribute to the economy of Haliburton.”
D’Eon said many people support STRs, but not the problem ones that are nuisances to neighbours.
What makes them problem properties is they annoy neighbouring property owners, he said.
Generally, most STR operators are respectful and careful about who they rent to, D’Eon said. And regulations or licencing would punish the good and the bad STR operators.
Warden Liz Danielsen said county council recognizes there us a fine balance to maintain when trying to devise a suitable bylaw to govern STRs.
“Recognize the value of short-term rentals to our economy and that we’re still struggling with the bylaw and (we) realize that there are still some things that need to be changed,” she said.
Flood Plain Mapping nears completion
Planning Department staff submitted an application in September for funding through the Flood Hazard Identification and Mapping Program administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
Funding is being sought to cover the modeling and surveying work plan efforts of the two Conservation Authorities for 2023. Staff will update council early in the new year on the project’s progress and work plan for next summer.
The county’s Flood Plain Mapping Project has been on-going since a 2017 flood. It received funding in 2019 and again in 2021.
Stone said the assembling of data will actually prepare a new flood risk assessment model for two watersheds: the Gull River and the Burnt River.
“That’ll lead to more information as it relates to the hazards along those river systems,” he said. “It’ll generate actual visual mapping that county council can consider when they look at policy development.”
Residents can also look at their own property to determine how much of risk they have and possibly make adjustments.
“If you’re one side of the line, you may want to move some structures out of that hazard, or you may want to fortify those structures,” he said.
The new funding will enable the project to move forward to final stages. That will be to create and make the model work.
“If those go successfully, the project will actually be concluded with the final presentation to county council of that model and the maps,” Stone said.
The mapping could be incorporated into the county’s Official Plan. And lower tier municipalities can use the information for zoning bylaws.
Councillor Bob Carter asked if any of the flood plain maps are available now.
“We were hoping to present to the previous county council on where we’ve gotten to with regards to our mapping,” he said.
Such a presentation can be done early in the new year, he said.
Shoreline preservation needs council direction
The biggest project of the last term, in Stone’s estimation, was developing the new Shoreline Preservation Bylaw. The new legislation takes a step further than the Shoreline Tree Preservation Bylaw, he said.
“That goes a little bit beyond the existing tree preservation bylaw insofar as it deal with more terrestrial alteration of the shorelines,” he said.
The bylaw will come into effect on April 1, 2023, and will prohibit or regulate the destruction or injuring of trees and native vegetation. It will prohibit or regulate the placing or dumping of fill, the removal of topsoil, the alteration of the grade of land on county shoreline properties.
The applicable shoreline area is 20 metres from the high-water mark of lakes, rivers, and wetlands.
Planning Department staff spent much of the fall presenting the new bylaw to councils of the four townships.
Dysart et al deferred the county’s delegation request pending a legal review of the bylaw. The other three municipalities are proceeding with adoptions of their delegation bylaws.
Stone said staff will provide council with a detailed status report on this project in the near future. The primary purpose of that report will be to receive direction from this council on its priorities with respect to moving forward on this project.
“We’re not making any assumptions as a staff with regards to that, and we would like your direction,” he said.