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Filling vacancies, lawfully

 | March 26, 2013

Hot tub deck view It’s an issue that’s been on the table for the last decade — nightly rentals at Sun Peaks.

Renting out your residentially zoned home for less than one month, also known as “short-term rental” or “vacation rental” has been on the agenda at Sun Peaks for years.

A public information session addressing short-term nightly rentals took place on March 2. From that meeting options for solving this issue are now on the table.

“What council did was present a way forward which was looking at spot zoning. What they’ll do is look to amend the current zoning bylaw which will then allow people to apply for a rezoning of their property for specific use of short-term rentals,” explains Rob Bremner, CAO for Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality. “We also presented in that meeting that we’d look at, through the business license bylaw, having the short-term rentals also get a business license.”

Resolution to the issue is pressing for property and business owners in the resort. Some homes and chalets do carry the zoning required to operate as short-term rental spaces, but many don’t and operate as rental chalets without the proper zoning.

Don Fehst, owner of Sun Peaks Vacation Chalets, acknowledges that the zoning issues with chalets have been ongoing for years.

“For the good of the resort we need to have a variety of vacation rentals for guests,” he says adding that many of the guests to the resort are looking specifically for free standing homes that offer privacy and space for their groups.

As many homeowners in the municipality rely financially on vacation rentals, Fehst expects for-sale signs to pop up if a suitable resolution to the short-term rental issue isn’t reached.

Council will review the report from March’s short-term rental meeting in their April sitting. Following a spot zoning system would involve amendments to the existing bylaw, presenting it at a public hearing, and passing it by council. Homeowners would then be able to make an application for new zoning under the amended bylaw. Bremner estimated the initial number of applicants could reach 50 or 60.

“(Council) wants to make sure that the process is simple,” he says. “That is our challenge and I think that with the limited staff that we have we’ll be making it as simple as we can.”

Is this a system that could work to settle the longstanding issues of nightly rentals in the resort? Time will tell. But, Bremner was confident the community is on board with resolving the problem.

“(There’s been) no vocal opposition at this point,” says Bremner. “People each had their own concerns but after they heard what it is we’re attempting to do here I think that they saw it as we’re trying to hit some mid-ground here, get some control over it but yet still make it so that people can do it.”

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