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LETTER: Public urged to attend meeting about short-term rentals

Oro-Medonte residents upset about short-term rentals hosting info session Oct. 18 at Lakehead University
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Members of the public are invited to attend an information session about short-term rentals.

The event will take place Oct. 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Lakehead University’s Orillia campus on University Avenue.

Organizers will provide an overview and call to action to address the growing problem of commercial short-term rentals in the Township of Oro-Medonte. Commercial short-term rentals are properties in residential neighborhoods that are used illegally as hotels and resort destinations.

There will be a 45-minute presentation by professors Kim Pressnail and David Johnston and retired planner Gord Knox. The presentation will be followed by a period for questions and discussion.

After the presentation, everyone will have a chance to speak with several homeowners who live next to a commercial short-term rental.

It is important for all neighbours to know that the township is poised to license commercial uses in residential neighbourhoods that are presently unchallenged and, more importantly, illegal. If the township licenses existing commercial uses, no neighbourhood will be safe from the disruption caused by commercial short-term rentals.

Most people are one bad real estate transaction away from having to move to escape the neighbour from hell. Not all of them realize it.

You can hear testimonials of neighbours who have needlessly suffered because the township has failed to protect their rights as homeowners by not enforcing existing zoning bylaws. They can tell you what it is like to feel unsafe in your home when badly behaving strangers check in next door. They can tell you what it is like to have your peace and quiet destroyed by commercial ghost hotels operating under the guise of “home sharing.” They can tell you, first hand, how ineffective township bylaw enforcement has been.

The evening will wrap up with a few concluding remarks on how you can take action to help change this unacceptable situation.

What we support:

  • Homeowners who have traditionally rented out all or part of their home or cottage to family and friends on an informal basis. These are usually residents who live in Oro-Medonte for part of the year. They are not the problem.

  • Traditional bed and breakfasts where the owner is on-site when guests are present. These are legitimate businesses who are strictly regulated through appropriate zoning provisions.

  • Homeowners who rent or lease their home on a long-term basis for 30 days or more. They provide housing and occupancy of seasonally vacant residences.

What we oppose:

  • Corporate and individual business operators who have purchased homes mainly for the sale of commercial accommodation. These hotel-like operations strive to rent to large groups on a daily basis. They provide no on-site supervision of their transient customers. As a consequence, land-use intensification has occurred, and consequential severe noise, congestion, security and environmental problems have disrupted surrounding residents.

Your help is needed in telling the township that licensing short-term rentals is a really bad idea and if implemented will destroy neighbourhoods forever. We need you to tell the township to enforce our existing zoning bylaws first before taking any further steps.

If the short-term rental licensing door is opened by the township, it cannot be subsequently closed without extremely costly litigation. This information session is ultimately about helping to protect our neighbourhoods and our homes, for us and for all those who follow.

About the presenters:

Professor Kim Pressnail is an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto and a resident of Oro-Medonte. After Kim and his brother complained to the township about commercial hotels next to them, they were asked by the mayor in May 2018 to join a township task force to study short-term rentals.

Prior to the election, the task force plan was cancelled without notice. They responded by summarizing their work in a deputation to council in September 2018. Kim went on to make another deputation to council in March 2019 about licensing and has continued to raise awareness about this issue.

Professor David Johnston is a professor at the Schulich School of Business, York University, and a long-time resident of Oro-Medonte. His concern is for the protection of the rights of residents to peacefully enjoy their homes and to create a sustainable community.

He has made a deputation to the township about his concern that the current short-term rentals developed by commercial operators is a violation of existing township zoning laws. Any licensing regime will be illegitimate and, given the lack of enforcement resources in the township, will not protect residents. This is not the kind of economic development that will benefit the majority of residents in terms of controlling taxes and improving their standard of living.

Gord Knox is a retired planner who developed many of the original zoning bylaws for the townships in Simcoe County while working with consulting firms in the Barrie area.

Among his many accomplishments, Gord is a past president of the Barrie Chamber of Commerce. He has kindly offered to help us in protecting the safety, security, and quiet enjoyment of our neighbourhoods. Gord will briefly explain the workings of the Planning Act and how uses such as short-term rental accommodations are not permitted under the existing residential zoning bylaws of Oro-Medonte.

Kim Pressnail