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Short-term rental owner 'laughing in our face,' Severn mayor says

Property still listed on Airbnb despite being in violation of bylaw; 'I don’t think it’s worth the paper it’s written on,' neighbour says of township's bylaw

Another short-term rental property is raising the ire of not only residents of Severn, but the township council, too.

Nancy Croft and her husband live on Lakeside Drive in Cumberland Beach. The house next to theirs was sold this year and, according to Croft, the purchaser assured the sellers it would not be used for short-term rentals. Despite that, it has been advertised on Airbnb.

Croft said she has, at times, seen up to 17 people at the house.

“There’s just been too many people, especially during COVID,” she said. “It’s not a party house every single night, but there are people there constantly.”

Hers is a small lot, so she gets an unwanted close-up of the action, which she said is taking away from her quality of life.

“I can’t escape it at all. It’s right in your face,” she said. “Our whole life’s been turned upside down. We retired up here. We thought we’d found this perfect little place, and now our peace of mind is gone.”

Severn has an interim control bylaw that doesn’t allow short-term rentals except those that were established before October 2018. That means the Lakeside Drive property is in contravention of the bylaw.

Township bylaw officers served the owner papers stating it was an illegal short-term rental, but no charges have been laid.

“I don’t think it’s worth the paper it’s written on,” Croft said of the bylaw.

Severn Mayor Mike Burkett said charges have not been laid because, after consulting with legal counsel, it was learned the case wouldn’t go to court until March 2022 due to backlogs as a result of the pandemic.

Also, the township is in the process of updating its Official Plan. The consultant hired to help with that will be looking at ways to give the municipality more teeth when it comes to dealing with short-term rentals.

Burkett said the township is waiting to see what comes of that process and noted the goal is to have something in place before March 2022.

“I doubt we can stop them, but I hope we can regulate them,” Burkett said.

A virtual open house regarding short-term rentals will take place Sept. 22 at 5:30 p.m. More information, including how to register, can be found here.

Burkett said he sympathizes with frustrated residents.

“It’s very disheartening that our hands are tied as a municipality, and my biggest concern is that they don’t have any respect for the neighbours,” he said of some short-term rental property owners.

That goes for the one on Lakeside Drive. Burkett has spoken with the owner and “made it perfectly clear and tried to make him understand he was in violation.”

“Basically, he’s laughing in our face,” he said. “Shame on him for thinking that he can do what he’s doing.”

Deputy Mayor Jane Dunlop visited Croft’s property recently. She, too, shares in the frustration.

“It’s an illegal Airbnb and he knows it,” she said, adding she wants the township to be able to license short-term rentals so it can shut them down if necessary.

As for the property in question, she’s in favour of laying charges.

“If he continues on after the letter that he has and the notification on the door, charge him. If it has to wait until March, it waits until March,” she said. “We need to support our residents.”

Croft wants the township to take action now.

“I’d like him to get shut down,” she said. “If there’s an interim bylaw in place, it should be used.”

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Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the desk editor for Village Media's central news desk in Simcoe County.
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