STR bylaw is anti-business, anti-tourism, says Dysart operator

By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The proposed bylaw to govern the short-term rental of properties will hurt Dysart in the long run.
Dysart resident Alex Dagg owns properties north of Eagle Lake. One property is her residence and the other is a cottage bought for her adult children to use. Neighbours have used the second property when hosting many extended family members for events.
But she also offers the second property as a short-term rental (STR) when her children are not using it.
“Since I live next door, I keep a close eye on my guests and the property and regularly communicate with my neighbours about it,” she said.
The cottage has also been used by visiting construction workers doing jobs in the area, she said.
“I have regular families book my property every year,” Dagg said. “(They) shop in the area, go to the farmers’ market, use the hiking trails.
“My place has really been a way for many more families to enjoy the beautiful lakes and the woods here. Those that can’t afford their own place but would like to spend a week or two here.”
She said 77 per cent of all accommodations in Haliburton County is provided by way of STRs. Families have been renting cottages in the area for generations.
“This is not new,” Dagg said.
She said the typical Airbnb host in the county earns about $9,000 a year and rents for about 50 nights. Eight-five per cent of them own one property. Collectively, she said Airbnb hosts have generated $1-billion for the Ontario economy.
Although she said she supports regulations for STRs in the county, she feels the proposed bylaw is a huge over-reach, is extremely bureaucratic, and poses difficulties for her and others to comply. And, she said, complying with the regulations presents a great expense.
“It requires us to own our shoreline allowance for no obvious or discernible policy reason,” Dagg said. “It requires onerous and time-consuming inspections, and a tax collection at a time when we are facing significant inflation, huge cost increases, and declining demand.”
The new rules will require STR property owners to carry $2-million liability insurance policies. She questions the rationale behind that stipulation when owners already have $1-million liability policies.
Property owners are required to submit detailed floor plans to scale and detailed parking plans.
“Do I have to hire a planner, a designer, an architect to help me?” she said. “I don’t know how to draw my building to scale.”
She called the proposed bylaw anti-business and anti-tourism efforts. In the long run, she said the rules will end up hurting Dysart.
And she echoed a claim that’s been made by other STR property owners: The proposed bylaw’s enforcement will be difficult and costly for the county and its lower tier municipalities to enforce.
“Focus your attention on the properties where you get complaints,” Dagg said. “Most of us are responsible hosts and contribute to the community.
“Design a bylaw that solves the problem host in the problem properties. Don’t design a bylaw that most of us can’t afford to comply with and then you can’t afford to enforce.”
Everybody pays property taxes, she said.
“As designed, (the bylaw) is really anti-business and anti-tourism,” she said. “The draft bylaw is unworkable, expensive, and won’t solve your problem.”
As part of the STR system of regulation, the county proposed a municipal accommodation tax (MAT) to help cover costs of regulation and to go into tourism promotion.
But Dagg said STR operators can’t afford to raise their rates four per cent to offset the MAT. Especially when the economy is difficult and bookings are down.
“I know that some of us have asked you to delay implementation of this bylaw,” she said. “If you’re not prepared to do that, we understand that. But at least please make some amendments (to the proposed bylaw).”
Mayor Murray Fearrey said municipalities have a difficult time determining which STR property is a commercial enterprise and which are small-scale owners like Dagg and some others.
“In the bylaw you’re going to require us to register,” Dagg said. “So you’re going to know who we are. You’re going to have that information. If I come and register and I own 15 properties, … you’re going to know that I have 15 properties.”