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Regulate vacation rentals, Revelstoke council told

Speakers at a public hearing came out mostly in favour of vacation rentals — as long as they're well regulated, well taxed and properly enforced.

Revelstoke council heard from six residents, five of whom spoke in favour of allowing vacation rentals in residential neighbourhood, provided proper restrictions are put in place and they don't become a financial burden to the city. Six other people wrote letters.

"They're already here, so we might as well make some money off them and make sure they're monitored properly," said Scott Duke, who is a director with the Chamber of Commerce and is running for council.

Click here to read the letters to council.

Only Brian Gadbois, who lives in Arrow Heights, spoke out against the proposal, telling council,  "Filling neighbourhoods with vacation rentals would actually lose the character of neighbourhoods in a community sense and would not achieve the objectives of having individuals live their entire lives in this community."

Robert and Bonnie Lundberg also objected to vacation rentals, writing a letter to council saying, "Local residents did not sign on to guarantee financial profit for landlords and land speculators."

Short-term renters have no concern for their neighbourhoods, they wrote. "Commercialism should not be allowed to destroy single-family oriented neighbourhoods."

Still, out of the 12 people who officially voiced their opinions, the majority were in favour of the proposal, as long as the fees were suitable, taxation was at the right level, and the rentals were properly regulated and enforced.

The city proposal calls for vacation rentals to be capped at 120 days per year, with a maximum of four rooms and eight guests, and one parking space available per room. Properties would have to undergo a specific re-zoning process that would include a public hearing in order to become a vacation rental.

Currently, there are an estimated 30–40 vacation rentals operating illegally in Revelstoke.

One letter came from Brett Solomons, an Albertan who said he was considering purchasing property in Revelstoke to use as a vacation rental when he is not here. He wrote the cap should be more than 120 days to increase the viability of running a vacation rental.

Richard Tucker wrote that re-zoning shouldn't be required for every home, and that city staff and council should set out clear guidelines to follow so that homeowners wouldn't be at the mercy of their neighbours to run a vacation rental.

Duke said the goal of the bylaw should be to ensure Revelstoke doesn't turn into a Canmore or Whistler, where black windows are a problem throughout the communities. He suggested putting a cap on the number of vacation rentals allowed in town. He also proposed a $2,000 licensing fee to cover the costs of administration and enforcement.

"The biggest thing is the city should be profitable off of it. At least if they're going to be there, we should make money off of it and have it go towards marketing," he said.

Judy Goodman, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, presented the result of a member survey to council that showed 82 per cent of 56 respondents supported vacation rentals. Only 52 per cent supported the proposed re-zoning process, while a 62 per cent agreed with the parking regulations and 88 per cent with the rule requiring a 24/7 contact be made available.

She said the penalties for breaking the rules should be high enough to act as a deterrent. She also suggested a pillow tax be collected that would go towards tourism marketing.

Norm Langlois, speaking on behalf of the Revelstoke Accommodation Association, said the bylaw should ensure a fair playing field, social fabric considerations, and enforcement and penalties. Vacation rentals should not be able to piggy back off existing hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts. As well, an excess of vacation rentals could lead to a housing shortage for residents.

"Not only do vacation rentals take away potential business from already struggling hotels, they push up the long-term rental rates that employees need," he said. "Every day workers are pushed out of the community to make ends meet while some houses sit empty."

He agreed with the idea of capping the number of vacation rentals. "We do not want to have a ghost-town bedroom community in the shoulder season while locals struggle to find affordable housing."

Poppi Reiner, who runs Poppi's Guest House, and Nancy Murray, who runs a bed & breakfast in Arrow Heights, both expressed similar sentiments that vacation rental owners should have to meet the same regulations as other accommodators.

"When you open a B&B in town, you jump through big hoops," said Murray. "I think that everybody who's dealing with tourism in this town should also be falling within these guidelines."

Reiner said vacation rental owners should have to contribute towards the marketing done by the RAA.

"I would like you to consider some kind of a tax," she said. "I know it's difficult to do that, but some kind of pillow tax so they can contribute to the enforcement and to marketing."

 

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