Many Revelstoke residents are concerned with how short-term rental companies like Airbnb will affect their neighbourhoods, or how not being able to use them will affect their livelihood. (Josh Piercey/Revelstoke Review)

Many Revelstoke residents are concerned with how short-term rental companies like Airbnb will affect their neighbourhoods, or how not being able to use them will affect their livelihood. (Josh Piercey/Revelstoke Review)

Revelstoke council passes third reading of short-term rental bylaw

Opinions amongst councillors were divided at the council meeting on March 23

Revelstoke’s plans to regulate short-term rentals (STR) in the community passed a major hurdle on Tuesday (March 23) when it was given a third reading by council, but major division amongst councillors made itself apparent once again in the discussion that followed.

The motion carried in a 4-2 vote with Coun. Jackie Rhind and Coun. Rob Elliott opposed.

“Is it perfect? No it’s not, but it’s a great start,” said Revelstoke mayor Gary Sulz.

The regulations as they stand right now would allow STRs in 59 properties adjacent to the Revelstoke Mountain Resort, and give them the ability to review impacts on housing, enforcement challenges, and impact on the character of these neighbourhoods before possibly opening opportunity up to the rest of the community.

Council has seen a number of iterations of the proposed bylaw since being elected in 2018. Councillors who were in favour noted that there is still plenty of work to be done to adequately enforce the new rules in the community, but desired to move forward with how it is proposed right now in order to take those next steps.

“I hope that this creates the framework for a conversation to be had,” said Coun. Nicole Cherlet.

Division amongst councillors

Councillors were at odds over the decision, and a heated, emotional discussion over the proposed bylaw ensued.

“I will obviously not be in support of this,” said Rhind. “I think it’s garbage.”

Rhind said that the framework as it’s proposed does nothing, stating that she felt they were passing on this contentious issue to next council and that she thought that this council should be held more accountable.

Rhind also shared concerns that residents who wanted to do vacation rentals may decide to do bed and breakfasts instead, thereby circumventing the proposed bylaw.

Bed and breakfasts are still permitted in every residential zone in the community. City staff noted that the main difference between bed and breakfasts and STRs are that the former are in the same dwelling unit as the primary resident of the occupancy.

According to city staff, bed and breakfasts don’t impact the community in the same way as STRs when it comes to direct impact on neighborhoods caused by parking and noise due to their nature.

“I strongly feel like this is not a very good approach for our community,” said Rhind. “I think it’s going to cause a lot more problems then it’s going to fix.”

Morality and equity

Councillors were at odds over the morality of making this decision, which according to some councillors, was immoral because of it’s inherent inequity for citizens.

Rhind said that taking away the income residents not located in the 59 properties allocated for STRs would leave them without income they may depend on to make ends meet.

She added that in the future, there may be perverse incentives for people who run for council because of the regulations they’re now putting in place after years of discussion.

Elliott brought into question the morality of only allowing certain members in the community to benefit from the income and value generated from STRs.

“To say you can do it, and you can’t, I find that wrong,” said Elliott.

Cherlet spoke of the inequity already ingrained in society which council does not have control over, and added that it would take time to work towards an equitable playing field in the community.

“Talking about morality when it comes to housing decisions hits me hard,” said Cherlet. “While I can appreciate the value of providing equitable opportunity for all members of our community, I would argue that that is a pipe dream.”

“Council is making a tough decision, however it comes out in the end,” stated Coun. Tim Palmer.

Enforcement

One of the most important components of moving forward with the new regulations is the question of how it will be enforced.

Going forward city council plan to endorse an enforcement strategy for vacation rentals with a proactive and reactive approach through the use of SeeClickFix, an app which assist users in communicating with local governments about non-emergency issues.

Between February 2017 and February 2022, there were 71 complaints registered on SeeClickFix that were directly related to STRs.

According to staff 46 of those complaints were related to the use not being permitted in the applicable zone, 15 complaints related to parking, 10 complaints related to either not paying taxes, starting fires, too many guests, no license, noise, or traveling during non-essential travel.

A recent review made by staff from online advertising platforms during December 2021 showed 278 advertisements for STRs on online platforms.

Housekeeping

There was also a third reading of Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 2318 labelled Short Term Rentals – Housekeeping. The motion was carried after councillors discussed concerns raised at the public hearing on Feb. 22.

According to city staff, this amendment was meant to clean up the existing language scattered throughout the zoning bylaw to bring clarity. This would consolidate the terms hotel, motor hotel, motel, and lodge into ‘tourist accommodation’ and change all references to the term ‘vacation rental’ to ‘short-term rental.’

Residents voiced concerns around the definition of tourist accommodation, saying that these changes would allow hotel uses with licensed beverage facilities like bars and lounges in the C2 Zone, which is located just outside of the downtown core on Mackenzie and Connaught Avenue.

Staff noted the size and height limitations of buildings in the C2 zone, and noted that liquor licences are given out at the discretion of council.

Comparisons

Regulations for STRs have existed for some time in communities near Revelstoke.

In 2016, Nelson city council passed bylaws that would change zoning to allow its rules for STR operations.

The maximum number of annual STR licences in the community is 110 and the maximum number of four‐month STR licences is 40. There is a maximum of three permitted within one block.

Roughly one year later, the city put out a survey as part of the evaluation of established regulations about STR licences. Both short-term rental licence holders and members of public filled out the survey.

The results showed mixed opinions among residents. In the survey the city asked if the public thought the regulations ensured a level playing field, to which 30.7 per cent of individuals answered yes, 28.4 per cent answered somewhat, and 21.6 per cent answered not at all.

When asked about whether or not regulations met local housing needs opinions differed greatly between the public and those who held licenses, with 57.1 per cent of licence holders answering yes, and 55.1 per cent of the public answering not at all.

What’s next

Next, amendments to the Business License Bylaw, Fees and Charges Bylaw, as well as the municipal ticket information system bylaw will be made to implement a regulatory framework for short-term rentals. According to city staff, once all bylaws have received third reading and there is certainty regarding their content, all bylaws will be brought back for adoption along with a council policy to guide implementation.

READ MORE: Residents go head-to-head over Revelstoke’s short-term rental regulations

READ MORE: Revelstoke vents about proposed vacation rental rules


@josh_piercey
josh.piercey@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

and subscribe to our daily newsletter.

City CouncilRevelstoke

We are experiencing technical difficulties with our commenting platform and hope to be up and running again soon. In the meantime, you can still send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter, or submit a letter to the editor.