The City of Revelstoke has unveiled a plan to allow overnight vacation rentals in several city neighbourhoods. Once approved, owners could rent the homes much like a hotel, post signs advertising them, or even live in them part-time and rent them during peak seasons.
A new draft plan unveiled by the City of Revelstoke planning department on April 12 outlines the proposed neighbourhoods. It includes sections of Victoria Road, Fourth Street in Southside, upper Mackenzie Avenue, a large zone around and including Mountain View school, along Third Street East, Airport Way to Nichol Road, on Nichol Road and along Camozzi Road west of Nichol Road.
The draft proposal (see the PDF in its entirety below) outlines many requirements for a tourist home:
— The owner must rent the vacation unit, not someone who is subletting
— Exterior signage is permitted
— A secondary suite is allowed, but the owner must live at the property
— Owners must ensure the rental doesn’t create a nuisance
— A maximum of five people per vacation rental unit
— Development permits are required as part of the approval process
— A building permit is also required as part of the approval process
— A business licence is required
— On site parking requirements match existing requirements, such as for a basement suite
In February, city planning director John Guenther got approval from council to develop the proposal. However, the concept has been discussed by the planning director at public meetings during the Unified Development Bylaw process. Specifically, Guenther outlined the concept of allowing vacation rentals along Revelstoke arterial roads, including Nichol Road and Airport Way.
The draft plan doesn’t require a zoning change, nor are there any provisions, such as a public hearing, that would allow neighbours to challenge or block a proposed tourist home.
At the April 9 city council meeting, Mayor David Raven cited the proposed tourist home plan as an example of city council listening to the Chamber of Commerce, who support increasing the tax base.
The draft plan has a big unknown variable in it so far: taxes. “The assessment authority will decide your tax class,” states a planning department FAQ. “Further information will be forthcoming.”
As the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce and commercial property owners have pointed out for several years, the disparity between residential tax rates and commercial tax rates is one of the highest in B.C. If BC Assessment switched a property from a residential to commercial assessment, the annual tax bill will rise multifold.
For example, according to a City of Revelstoke online calculator, residential properties paid $713 in property taxes (city, school and other) per $100,000 of assessed value in 2012. Commercial properties paid $2,717 per $100,000 – almost four times as much.
The property tax bill for a home valued at $350,000 would jump from $2,495 to $9,510.
And it’s not that simple. BC Assessment would re-assess the value of the property using a complex formula that incorporates many factors, including the property’s ability to generate revenue. It’s possible the assessment could rise.
In February, Guenther floated the concept of a tourist accommodation levy in a report to council, but it remains unclear how that would work. The city doesn’t have the authority to determine assessments. However, an email from Jason Sowinski, BC Assessment Deputy Assessor for the Okanagan region, outlined options that could include tax relief depending on the specific property. Giving an example, he wrote that a residence operating like a hotel would be assessed commercial, while one that rents occasionally could be assessed residential.
The report discussed by council on Feb. 26 contained examples of vacation rental policies in other communities, including the City of Penticton. Several passages from the Penticton policy have been cut and pasted to make up the proposed Revelstoke policy.
The City of Revelstoke planning department is currently accepting early public feedback and said it will seek more feedback before and after the actual bylaw is drafted. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hard copies are available at city hall.
Two links are posted below. The first is to the map in large format, the second is to the proposed policy.
What do you think of this proposal? Is this a good way to increase the city tax base? Or is it a no-go in your mind because it will harm the nature of Revelstoke neighbourhoods? Will it spur construction jobs? Or will it lead to more ‘black window’ homes? Has the planning department picked the right neigbourhoods? Let us know your view by commenting below.