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Oro-Medonte council poised to license short-term rentals in township

‘I don’t think keeping the status quo is an option here. It’s time to move forward,’ says Deputy Mayor Scott Jermey

Short-term rentals will be permitted in Oro-Medonte Township but council decided this week they must be licensed by the municipality.

Arguments from both sides of the fence were heard by Oro-Medonte councillors this week who were faced with a stack of correspondence and about 10 speakers who attended the meeting of council to weigh in on the issue.

Oro-Medonte councillors had four options before them concerning the regulation of short-term rentals in the township:

  • Option 1 would see short-term rentals be restricted to certain areas of the township through zoning and Official Plan amendments;
  • Option 2 would require a licensing bylaw to be put in place and zoning amendments to be completed;
  • Option 3 would be a full prohibition to short-term rentals; and
  • Option 4 would be to maintain the status quo.

It took a while, but council chose Option 2.

Andria Leigh, director of development services with the township, noted that Severn, Ramara and Tay Townships, as well as the City of Orillia, are also starting to look at options regarding the regulation of short-term rentals.

“There are local jurisdictions that are watching what Oro-Medonte does here,” said Leigh.

Barry Sookman, a Toronto resident who owns a short-term rental property in Oro-Medonte township, made a deputation on Wednesday night.

“To be very clear, I believe that people who do short-term rentals in this community should be responsible. I think they should be very careful in who they vet,” he said.

“They should be responsible for monitoring what goes on at their property, and they should make every effort to make sure that neighbours are not adversely affected.”

Sookman said he supported the idea that hosts should be responsible for the costs associated with enforcement.

Sookman suggested the township establish a simple business license system for all short-term rentals and called for business licensing fees to be collected to offset the cost of bylaw enforcement.

He also suggested the township increase enforcement and amend existing bylaws to increase fines. Sookman also brought up concerns about having comprehensive zoning and licensing regulations added.

“No other rural municipality that is comparable to Oro-Medonte has this,” said Sookman, adding that Wasaga Beach and the Town of the Blue Mountains have some, but those communities differ from Oro-Medonte. “They’re both already well-known tourist destinations with lots of accommodation.”

During Sookman’s deputation, he indicated that there are roughly 300 properties listed as short-term rentals online or through word of mouth in the Township of Oro-Medonte.

According to a report from the township's chief bylaw enforcement officer, Sookman said there have been about a dozen unverified complaints related to three properties. As such, he concluded  the problem is really with only one per cent of hosts.

“The real issue is not the number of people or bedrooms. The real issue is the character of the people you rent to,” he said.

Coun. Ian Veitch asked how many short-term rentals in one area were too many.

“The real answer is not the number,” said Sookman. “The real answer is, how are the property owners making them available? If the people that show up are a family of eight with three kids and you have two or three properties like that, it’s not a problem. If you have one property that’s renting out to 20 teenagers who are having a party, one is too many. That’s why I think the artificial rules don’t really work.”

While Coun. Scott Macpherson said he appreciated Sookman’s comments, he still had concerns about allowing short-term rentals in residential neighbourhoods.

“There is growing significant intense public antipathy against these AirBnBs in residential neighbourhoods," said Macpherson.

"It’s just becoming overwhelming,” he said. “People don’t buy in a neighbourhood to have a quasi-hotel next door to them. I live in a residential neighbourhood. I wouldn’t want... one of these in my own neighbourhood.”

Macpherson also shared concerns about the short-term rentals located on Lake Simcoe.

“It’s bound to have an effect on Lake Simcoe water. I’m very concerned about that,” he said.

Sookman’s was one of 17 letters from residents and local business operators up for council consideration. Many of the letter writers, as well as others, got up to speak at the meeting.

Barbara Foster, who lives on Lakeshore Road in Oro-Medonte, spoke as an owner of a property that is listed on AirBnb.

“I know, from the sounds of it, that there are people against short-term rentals, but there’s a lot of people like myself who are very rigid about who comes in and rules that are laid out,” said Foster.

“I am a cancer patient on disability and I’m looking for ways to be able to stay in my home and pay my taxes. By renting out my boathouse, I’m able to earn enough money to be able to pay my taxes and stay here.”

Foster talked about the processes in place on AirBnb to help protect owners from handing over the keys to objectionable renters.

“We can rate them, so we know who is a bad actor and we don’t rent to them,” said Foster. “I feel that is a lot safer than people who are doing this on Kijiji.”

“Nobody who is a host wants to have their neighbours or the township affected,” she said.

When it came time to vote, Deputy Mayor Scott Jermey relayed his own experiences with short-term rentals.

“I’ve seen this issue from both sides. My family used to own a cottage on Bass Lake, so I understand where the property owners are coming from, and I’ve heard about it as Ward 5 councillor for the past four years where I counted eight properties in Ward 5 that were causing issues and I heard complaints from residents,” said Deputy Mayor Scott Jermey.

“I don’t think keeping the status quo is an option here. It’s time to move forward,” he said.

Council voted unanimously for option 2.

According to Leigh, both the additional implementation of a licensing bylaw and the changes to zoning amendments have a public consultation requirement before they can be passed by council.

Dates for public consultations have not yet been set, however she indicated that a regulatory bylaw could be drafted and brought forward to council by the summer.

In the meantime, the interim control bylaw was extended until June 28, 2020.

To read our previous story on this issue, click here.

Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings nine years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering county matters, court, Collingwood and Barrie matters
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