Council passes final version of STR bylaw

By Kirk Winter

After multiple meetings to gather information, dozens of impassioned deputations and many hours of council debate and staff preparation time, Kawartha Lakes finally has a new bylaw in place to govern short-term rentals (STRs) with the summer’s first long weekend just a week away.

Council spent a little more time ironing out the final details at their June 20 meeting, and spirited debate was present to the very end as councillors considered one last deputation from STR owner Ann Adare. Adare was concerned about how the potential bylaw is going to define a hosted property, directly impacting the operation of her STR that sits adjacent to her year-round home.

“I have listened in horror about mismanaged rentals and how they impact neighbourhoods,” Adare said. “I also know there are many STR owners who take steps to ensure that both renters and neighbours have an enjoyable experience. Not all STRs are the same and I have a concern about the definition of hosted vs. non-hosted sites.”

“It is clear that council considers a hosted property as one where the owner is onsite on the property,” Adare said. “This does not leave room for owners (like me) who live next door in that definition. I live in a home beside our rental property. Based on the current definition we are designated as non-hosted (and will pay more for a STR license and are unable to have a primary renter under the age of 25 book the dwelling).”

Adare told councillors that living next door allows her to manage her property as effectively as an on-site owner. Adare also said that she is physically closer to her STR rental than many of her neighbours who rent bunkies, space above garages or boat houses while they live in the main dwelling on the property.

“We know when something is going on,” Adare said. “We can deal with it immediately. I am right there. I am right next door. We value our peace and quiet because we live next door. Adjacent owners should be included in the bylaw as hosted owners.”

Adare asked council to make the change before the bylaw was passed, and asked for their support in changing the wording in the yet unpassed bylaw.

Councillor Pat Warren and Ron Ashmore took up Adare’s cause, with Warren advocating with a simple change of wording that would read “at, on or adjacent to the property” the definition of a hosted cottage could be easily rewritten for the sake of Adare and others who live right beside or across from the properties they use as STRs.

Ashmore went further saying, “This wording change cleans up the language and provides a fairer definition. We shouldn’t discriminate against (people like Adare). This (people willing to take care of their STRs) is what we want after all.”

Councillor Dan Joyce wasn’t so sure about the amendment to the bylaw being put forward by Warren and Ashmore.

“I live across the street…I live two doors down…this opens up a can of worms for staff and makes it harder for staff to enforce,” Joyce said.

“I sympathize with Ms. Adare and her situation,” said Mayor Doug Elmslie, “but I think you are correct Councillor Joyce. We are going to get into muddy waters…and we have had these discussions already at Committee of the Whole where we made determinations about who could rent either a hosted or unhosted property. Ms. Adare lives directly next door and can keep an eye on things but there are other properties with hedges and other things (outbuildings) that block line of sight of what might be happening. I cannot support the motion on the floor.”

Elmslie asked Warren to sum up her proposed amendment before a vote.

“I know this residence,” Warren said. “I have seen it. She can stand right there and there are no impediments to the view. Someone across the street would also have a good view. If this is really an issue about the age of renters then maybe that can be changed but I think this (proposed amendment) is the fair thing to do.”

When a show of hands was taken, Warren and Ashmore found themselves on the wrong side of a 7-2 vote against the change proposed by Adare.

Before the subject of the STR bylaw was left, Ashmore wanted more clarification about the definition of maximum STR occupancy.

Bylaw and licensing manager Aaron Sloan, watching virtually, told the councillor that the definition of occupancy is two adults per recognized bedroom, with an additional two adults allowed beyond that. Children 15 and under do not count towards the over all total. Sloan added that the bylaw also mandates how many daytime visitors an STR owner can host as no more than the total number of adults who are renting the building.

With all discussion concluded the proposed bylaw became official when the almost five-hour council meeting drew to a close.

As part of the approved bylaw, an operating budget of $400,000 was approved for 2023 along with the contingency in 2023 only for potential deficits amounting to an additional $300,000.

Any surpluses the program creates will be rolled over in a STR Rental Reserve that will be used to fund the program in future years.

Council has also directed bylaw to bring forward an update report in the first quarter of 2024 to share all information gleaned from the first year of the program with recommendations as needed to amend the STR bylaw and allow it to run more efficiently.

With the bylaw now in effect, it is expected that the hiring process of the four additional staff approved by council to aid with licensing and enforcement of the new STR bylaw will begin soon.

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