Reporter’s Notebook – STA Licence Revoked

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By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press

A Special Meeting of Northern Bruce Peninsula’s Municipal Council was held on Sept 26, to deal with an appeal of a Short-Term Accommodation (STA) licence revocation.

Council was told that the revocation stemmed from the owner persistently advertising the property for more people than the licence allowed. The property is licenced as a four bedroom cottage, which limits it to eight occupants, including children. Municipal staff stated that the property was advertised for 14 people so the owners were contacted. Despite the property owner’s promises to limit the property to eight people, it was still being advertised for ten people two weeks later.

Staff revoked the STA’s licence for a period of one year. The STA owner appealed that decision, leading to the Special Meeting.

The owners appeared at the Meeting on Zoom, asking for clemency and promising to comply with specified limits in future. They pointed out that their competition — other AirBnB rentals in the area — were also accommodating large numbers of people in defiance of regulations.

Councillor Smokey Golden kicked off the discussion. Obviously sympathetic to the owners, she noted that the other properties being advertised over their capacity will eventually be in the same situation. Staff have documented this case carefully. She pointed out that “…you wouldn’t buy a business without checking its capacity and zoning, would you?” 

Mayor Milt McIver agreed with this assessment, adding that the penalty was imposed with regret, but that this is MNBP’s first year regulating STAs and that “…if we don’t set examples on what the Bylaw states, our Bylaw is not useful”.

Council voted unanimously to uphold the suspension.

The STA issue come up for discussion again a few hours later, under Other Business at Council’s regular Meeting. Councillor Golden pointed out that STAs are allowed in some areas but not others but the mapping is confusing. People need an easy way to find out what’s possible when they are looking at a property. She suggested that properties were being rented as STAs in contravention of zoning and that real estate agents were not being as open about this as they should. Mayor McIver agreed with this point.

Deputy Mayor Debbie Myles noted that the consultant had identified 1,200 properties in MNBP that were being rented as STAs but that far fewer than that have registered.