It’s becoming increasingly likely that an on-site owner or operator will be required to legally run a short-term rental property in Summerland.
Council this week voted 5-2 to have staff include that provision in a draft version of a regulatory scheme for short-term rentals that is expected to be publicly unveiled in December.
Requiring an on-site owner or operator is critical to ensuring short-term rentals don’t unfairly intrude on neighbours, argued Coun. Doug Holmes.
“It’s no different than putting an autobody shop – or a body rub shop – in the middle of a residential area,” said Holmes, who urged council to follow the lead of Tofino, where short-term rentals are only permitted on properties with at least two dwellings, one of which must be owner-occupied.
“Tofino has more than 250 short-term rentals with those regulations, so I’d hardly say their tourism sector is suffering,” added Holmes.
Council in August directed staff to start work on the community’s first-ever short-term rental licensing scheme. Much of the work to date has focused on public consultation, which included an open house and survey that received 547 responses.
The survey, in which 78% or respondents identified as full-time Summerland residents, found 55% support for licensing vacation rentals.
On the question of on-site supervision, 53% were in favour of simply requiring an operator to be available to respond to complaints within two hours, while 40% wanted someone on-site at all times.
The waters were further muddied on a question about occupancy limits, with 35% of respondents in favour of a six-guest cap, while 33 said six is too many and 20% said six is too few.
Respondents did express support for strong oversight, with 74% in favour of requiring operators to have a business plan, some elements of which could include health and safety inspections, good neighbour agreements and parking strategies.
Opposing votes to the package were cast by Mayor Toni Boot and Coun. Doug Patan.
Patan, who noted a company hired by the district earlier this year determined there were already 174 short-term rental properties operating in Summerland, cautioned against making the regulations too onerous.
“As soon as we over-regulate, we’re going to (create) an underground market and it’s going to be exactly where we’re sitting with illegal secondary suites right now,” said Patan.
“Do I agree the owner should be in the home? I do. But that’s my personal opinion.”
With feedback from council in hand, district staff is now preparing a draft bylaw that will be presented at the Dec. 13 meeting.