By John Francis,
Bruce Peninsula Press
Northern Bruce Peninsula’s August 23 Council Meeting began with long-awaited Public Meetings concerning the proposed Short-Term Accommodation (STA) bylaw and the associated Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) which would apply to STA rentals.
A number of speakers referenced or spoke on behalf of the Northern Bruce Peninsula Cottage Association. They opposed the new regulations and the MAT and made a number of points.
They objected to the municipality’s refusal to negotiate directly with the NBPCA. They allege that the municipality has delegitimized their association and ignored them as stakeholders.
The association has consistently demanded private consultations, one-on-one with the municipality. Municipal CAO Peggy Van Mierlo-West explained that municipalities need to be open and transparent in their consultations and that it is not appropriate to negotiate separately with a small group of stakeholders/property owners. Public consultations are what is prescribed and the municipality has fulfilled that requirement.
The bylaw opponents stated that the municipality had not incorporated the NBPCA’s suggestions. The CAO explained that the municipality had indeed responded to suggestions: they had made massive changes, reducing the registration fees and rolling two classes of STAs into one, as requested.
Bylaw opponents complained that STAs are being singled out and targeted, that there is a double standard being applied to property owners. The CAO replied that STAs are not like other properties. The occupants are neither householders nor homeowners. They are an entirely different entity, requiring entirely different regulation.
Opponents of new regulations complained that new regulations are not needed, that existing regulations — if they were properly enforced — would be perfectly adequate to deal with STAs. The CAO agreed that current bylaws do cover many of the things that are being rolled into the STA bylaws, but not all. Important items covered in the new bylaw include fire access and the requirement that an agent of the STA owner be within an hour’s drive of the rental property to attend in response to complaints.
The number 19 was cited by a number of speakers; that’s the average number of complaints that have been registered each year against STAs in MNBP. The new bylaws, they continued, were like using a sledgehammer to kill an ant.
Several speakers stated that the free market was all the regulation that the STA industry needed, that any problems would be quickly picked up on TripAdvisor and other platforms and solved that way. Lowered ratings, they said, were far more effective than any system of bylaws.
Others accused the municipality of stirring up negative feeling towards STA owners by engaging in this whole process.
We Didn’t Just Dream These Things Up
Mayor Milt McIver addressed these allegations. “The priorities of this council included dealing with the STA issue,” he began. “We didn’t just dream these things up – this is what we heard from voters when we were on the campaign trail.” As Council went through this process, he continued, “we heard that the proposed fees were too high and reduced them. But we want a bylaw that has some teeth to it so we can deal with issues”.
A number of people also spoke in favour of regulating STAs, citing issues of noise, crowding and various kinds of inconsiderate behaviour.
The Public Meeting about the MAT saw many of the same speakers making many of the same arguments.
The Bylaws are scheduled to come up for passage on Sept 27.
Arena Improvements Will Go Ahead — 73% Federal/Provincial Funds
Excerpts from the Treasurer’s Report to Council in the Agenda for the Aug 23 Meeting:
“Northern Bruce Peninsula recently received notification that the funding application for the Lion’s Head and District Community Centre was approved under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP).
The project renovations include: creating 6 new dressing rooms accessible directly to arena floor level establishing safe, barrier-free access for building users; creating a new multi-purpose room suitable for community presentations and gatherings; creating a new branch library space for the Bruce County Library system; renovating the existing washrooms and creating new washrooms to improve accessibility to persons with disabilities.
The project will Improve community access and multi-purpose use of the facility and enhance accessibility for persons with disabilities.
The total eligible expenditures under this funding agreement are $4,939,545.60. The maximum provincial contribution is $1,646,350.55 (33.33%). The maximum federal contribution is $1,975,818.24 (40%). The municipality required contribution is $1,317,376.81 (26.67%).”
The Municipal contribution would be funded through the Capital Reserve.
This project has been one of the municipality’s highest priorities for at least a decade.