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Revelstoke council votes to delay primary residence rule in STR bill

Under the bill, only those living primarily in their property could offer short term rentals
(The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

Revelstoke city council voted to delay opting into the primary residence feature of the provincial government’s Short-Term Rentals Accommodations Act (Bill 35), Tuesday, Jan. 9.

In October, Bill 35 received Royal Assent, bringing with it a slew of new regulations supported by the provincial government to reign in short-term rentals (STRs). Many of the features were available to municipalities without opting-in, but the primary residence requirement was left as a decision for resort municipalities to opt-in annually if they desired.

As the deadline to opt-in approaches in late February, the city decided not to opt-in, as the planning department already has a full plate and wouldn’t be able to fully examine the potential impacts of the move.

The province defines primary residence as simply “the residence an individual lives in for a longer period during a calendar year than any other place.”

While the definition is easy, the impact of the stipulation could be enormous — especially in a resort municipality.

“If we opt in, there’s no short-term rental unless it’s your principal residence,” said lead city planner Paul Simon at the meeting.

Simon explained that the legislation could be used as a ‘floor’ to begin building legislation to manage STRs, but that the city would not be able to put in a more lenient version once the city opts in. With no option to be more lenient, this would mean that principal residence would be enforced everywhere except resort lands, without exception.

On city staff’s recommendation, council voted to postpone opting-in.

Simon explained that to take on the new regulations, zoning amendments would have to be made in addition to the bylaw review that city staff is already undertaking. He said the new regulations mixing with the existing bylaws could be confusing to residents and STR operators alike.

Simon added that an STR regulatory framework study is currently unbudgeted and is estimated to cost between $40,000 and $60,000.

Hearing the reasoning for deferral, Councillor Devlin offered his input as to why he agreed with the decision.

“I’m not particularly thrilled that this has to be deferred until October, but I do recognize that it does have to be deferred,” said Devlin.

Devlin added that upon looking at the list of items already on the planning department’s to-do list, there are “a lot,” and that he wouldn’t want to delay any of them.

In the end, the motion to defer was passed unanimously.

While the city won’t opt into the primary residence this year, the other elements of Bill 35 will still be available to them.

In May, legal non-conforming units (grandfathered in) will no longer be allowed, and valid business licenses must be displayed with a listing.

In the summer, data sharing between municipal and provincial governments will commence to oversee STR listings, allowing better oversight to ensure STRs have business licenses.

Later in the year, the province will launch its provincial STR registry to regulate listings without provincial registry numbers.

The former will be available to the municipal government as they are rolled out, without a need to opt in. The city, by voting to delay opting into the primary residence requirement, will begin its review of the bill in October.

READ MORE: Revelstoke will explore opting in for short-term rental laws

Zach Delaney

About the Author: Zach Delaney

I came to the Revelstoke Review from Ottawa, Ontario, where I earned a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University.
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