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Township's attempt to control 'party houses' deemed overreach

'We’re looking at every viable option ... because we are determined that we are not going to allow party houses and ghost hotels,' said Oro-Medonte mayor
2020-02-18 Harry Hughes
Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes

Oro-Medonte Township’s amended bylaw intended to control short-term rentals (STRs) has been revoked.

In an oral decision announced this week, the Ontario Land Tribunal has allowed an appeal by operators. Written reasons are expected within the next month.

"The Association is pleased that the Tribunal recognized that a total zoning ban of all short term rentals in the Township was not good planning and that it repealed the Township zoning bylaw amendment,” Barry Sookman, president of the Oro-Medonte Association for Responsible STRs said in an email.

“The Association is not against balanced and proportionate regulation of STRs that targets disruptive ‘party houses’ and looks forward to an opportunity to work collaboratively with the Township to achieve this.”

Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes said a 1997 zoning bylaw prohibiting commercial accommodations in residential areas still stands.

The zoning amendment that was defeated this week tried to clarify the meaning of commercial accommodation, he said. It defined temporary accommodation of a dwelling unit of 28 days or less as commercial operations and not permitted in a residential zone.

The tribunal, he said, determined it to be an overreach.

Council, he added, continues to consider ways to control problematic rentals.

“We’re looking at every viable option that we can possibly use because we are determined that we are not going to allow party houses and ghost hotels” that are disruptive to full-time residents, he said. “We are determined that we’re going to find a solution.”

Other Ontario municipalities experiencing similar problems have been watching for this outcome. Hughes said the issue is considered such an important one locally that all but one council member was following the proceedings.

Some municipalities have adopted a licensing approach as a way to control houses that are rented out for the short term.

Hughes said Oro-Medonte’s research suggests that licensing bylaws are not a panacea.

In a newsletter issued following the decision, the Oro-Medonte Good Neighbours Alliance said the decision does not change the ban of disruptive STRs under the pre-existing bylaw. 

“Good Neighbours intends to resume efforts on behalf of residents to have the township enforce the zoning bylaw and shut down the STR operators who are creating havoc in our residential neighbourhoods and are threatening the safety and well-being of our residents,” reads the newsletter.

“One outcome from the OLT hearing is that all parties involved agreed that no one wants or should suffer from a disruptive STR operating in their neighbourhood.”

Hughes said the township hired a company to scan online advertisements to search for STRs and enforce the township’s bylaws, a process he said could be a challenge. One case, he added, still remains before the courts.


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About the Author: Marg. Bruineman

Marg. Bruineman is an award-winning journalist who focuses on human interest stories
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