Nightly rental round table

Many Sun Peaks building lots were originally sold with the understanding that investors could build their houses to rent on a short-term basis in residential neighbourhoods.

Since then, zoning bylaws permitting short-term rentals in residential areas has become a controversial subject within the community.

To address the challenges of short-term rental providers, Sun Peaks council hired the Whistler Centre for Sustainability (WCS) to conduct a survey and workshops to find the best solution for short-term rentals in Sun Peaks. A public meeting facilitated by the WCS discussing nightly rentals was held on Sept. 24.

The objective of this meeting was to begin a conversation in the community, uncover key issues related to short-term rentals, and review how other communities such as Whistler, Sechelt and Tofino have handled the challenges associated with short-term rental accommodations.

“We’re not the only community that’s had these issues,” says Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine. “All three communities took slightly different approaches to their situation.”

Noise and parking bylaw violations are just two issues that raise the ire of permanent residents opposed to short-term rentals in residential neighbourhoods. Surprisingly, those opponents remained silent at the September meeting.

“We were very pleased that no opposition to short-term rentals was voiced at the meeting,” says Sun Peaks resident Petr Duda. “People were solution oriented.”

With multi-generational travel a growing trend, the need for family-style accommodations continues to increase.

“There was a whole discussion around the benefits of short-term rentals,” says Raine who also asks, “Is there a niche market that couldn’t be served by commercial accommodations?”

For those attending the September meeting, the answer was “yes.”

“I’d say 50 per cent of our bookings are made by grandmothers; three generations come up and enjoy the place,” stated Carol Barde, owner of the Kodiak Timber Lodge. “I think it provides more choice for the resort.”

The public forum highlighted the common ground providers of short-term rentals have with their permanent resident neighbours.

“We realized there are a lot of people in Sun Peaks that thought they were on different sides,” says Barde. “What the meeting did was (bring) the commonalities out.”

In January 2012 council will hold another public forum. “We‘ll focus on the number of people (offering) short-term rentals, where those locations are, how legitimate are the issues,” states Raine. “How many of those issues can be managed by bylaw enforcement and then look at a range of possible solutions for Sun Peaks.”

Those solutions may take some time to roll out to the community. That’s because the short-term rental market is a long-term buying decision. Changes to municipal bylaws need to factor in time for business owners to advise customers of changes to local regulations.

“The recommendations, and council’s acceptance of those recommendations, may happen in summer 2012, but from there it may take another 12 to 18 months to make significant changes. You have to respect that the booking season is more than 12 months,” say Raine.

Council wants to find the best possible solution for both permanent residents and rental business owners alike.

“This has been around in the community for at least 10 years. Taking a few more months to get it right is probably very wise,” concluded Raine.

It’s still possible for full and part-time residents to participate in the nightly rental survey which will be open until late October.

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