It is becoming increasingly likely that an on-site owner or operator will be required to legally operate a short-term rental property in Summerland.
Council voted this week at 5-2 to have staff include this provision in a draft of a regulatory scheme for short-term rentals that is expected to be publicly unveiled in December.
Requiring an owner or operator on site is essential to ensure that short-term rentals do not unfairly encroach on neighbors, Coun argued. Doug Holmes.
“It’s no different than putting a body shop – or body shop – in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” said Holmes, who urged the council to follow the lead of Tofino, where rentals at Short term are only allowed on properties with at least two dwellings, one of which must be owner occupied.
“Tofino has over 250 short-term rentals with these regulations, so I would hardly say their tourism industry is suffering,” added Holmes.
Council in August asked staff to begin work on the community’s very first short-term rental license program. Much of the work to date has focused on the public consultation, which included an open house and a survey that received 547 responses.
The survey, in which 78% of respondents identified themselves as full-time residents of Summerland, found 55% support for vacation rental licensing.
On the question of on-site supervision, 53% are in favor of a simple obligation of availability of an operator to respond to complaints within two hours, while 40% want a permanent presence on site.
The waters were still muddy on a question about occupancy limits, with 35% of respondents in favor of a six-guest cap, while 33 said six was too much and 20% said six was too few.
Respondents expressed support for strict oversight, with 74% in favor of requiring operators to have a business plan, some elements of which could include health and safety inspections, good neighborly agreements and parking strategies.
Votes against the package were cast by Mayor Toni Boot and the council. Doug Patan.
Patan, who noted that a company hired by the district earlier this year had determined that there were already 174 short-term rental properties operating in Summerland, cautioned against overly heavy regulation.
“As soon as we over-regulate, we will (create) an underground market and that will be exactly where we are now with illegal accessory apartments,” Patan said.
“Do I agree that the owner should be in the house?” I do. But that’s my personal opinion.
With council input in hand, district staff are currently preparing a draft bylaw that will be presented at the December 13 meeting.