By Chad Ingram
The issue of regulating short-term rentals in Haliburton County will move to the upper tier of the county council table, after receiving support for the concept from each of the county’s four, lower-tier municipal councils.
County councillors came to that agreement during a May 12 online meeting.
During the past few years, each of the county’s four municipal councils have had conversations about introducing regulations and licensing programs for the operation of short-term rentals. In some cases, this has involved public meetings and issuing surveys, but no policies have been put in place.
A number of Ontario municipalities have begun looking at the regulation of short-term rentals within their borders, with some establishing bylaws. Notably, the Town of The Blue Mountains established a policy governing short-term rentals in its official plan in 2009. That policy was subject to an Ontario Municipal Board appeal, which was ultimately dismissed, with some tweaks made to the regulations. The Town of The Blue Mountains’ policy designates certain areas where short-term rentals are permitted, stipulates that owners must acquire a licence through the municipality, and abide by other requirements including occupant load maximums, a site plan, and separation requirements. The framework also entails a demerit point system, whereby owners earn demerits for infractions such as noise complaints.
“I think we’re all in the same boat,” said Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts, adding that discussions in her municipality included the possibility of a licensing system. “I’d like to work together with everybody.”
Roberts said she thought a uniform approach made sense, particularly given some lakes straddle municipal borders.
Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and County Warden Liz Danielsen suggested a fuller conversation on the topic at council’s May 26 meeting.
“I think it’s something we can talk about then, and trust me, I would really like us to have something that’s across the board across the county,” Danielsen said. “It just makes sense that we’re doing the same thing in that regard.”
Roberts suggested that, as was the case with the creation of the county’s shoreline protection bylaw, the lower-tier councils should be asked for resolutions of support, delegating authority on the matter to the upper tier of the county.
“I think this is an issue that’s best approached at the county level,” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt. Algonquin Highlands council began discussing potential regulations last summer, and as Moffatt noted, a draft survey ready to be sent out to the public was set to come before council during a March 20 meeting. Moffatt suggested that if the county council was going to take on the topic, that the township could defer issuing the survey. She added substantial work on the subject has been done by Lake of Bays township, which borders Algonquin Highlands and is part of the District of Muskoka.
“There’s some extremely good and comprehensive work done over the last couple of years by Lake of Bays,” Moffatt said. “They have a very comprehensive report done on it, including a survey, and those outcomes.”
Dysart et al Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy suggested that Algonquin Highlands might still proceed with its survey, adding it could provide the most-up-to-date information and also form the framework for a larger survey.
“In Minden Hills, we’ve had a number of conversations about this, and in principle, do I agree to take a collaborative, county-wide approach with this? I really, really do,” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin. Devolin said he had some concerns regarding zoning bylaws and official plans and what overlap and implications there might be for short-term rental regulations, including potentially the creation of a new property classification.
“I would like to discuss that further,” Devolin said, adding that could include input from planning firm D.M. Wills Associates Limited, recently hired by the county to conduct its planning business after the departure of the county’s planning director.
“Having said that, have one uniform set of standards across the county? Hallelujah,” Devolin said. “We should do it on a lot more fronts, not just this.”
“I’m hearing complete concurrence that we should be doing this,” said Danielsen.
The matter will be taken to the lower-tier councils for their support.