Councillor Scott Duke was forced to withdraw his second vacation rental application after giving an interview to the Review on the subject.
Duke applied to rezone his home at 410 Cedar Street as a vacation rental. He did not take part in any council discussions about the home due to the conflict of interest, but because he spoke about the topic with the Review, he was deemed in breach of the rules around conflict of interest.
The application was withdrawn at the start of the public hearing on the application on Tuesday.
“At the time of making the application for re-zoning, as required, I declared that I had a conflict of interest, and didn’t participate any further with respect to the deliberations of the Mayor and Council regarding my re-zoning application,” Duke wrote in a letter to the city. “However, since then, suggestions have been made that I may have influenced the Mayor and other members of Council with respect to my re-zoning application. If other members of Council have been influenced by anything that I may have said or done with respect to my re-zoning application, that was wholly inadvertent on my part, as that was never my intention.
“I have no wish to place the Mayor and other members of Council in a position where members of the public may accuse them of acting in a manner that is partial to me, being a member of Council, or otherwise acting improperly. Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my re-zoning application.“
The Review interviewed Duke about vacation rentals due to his experience as both an owner and manager of vacation rentals. We did not know the interview would place Duke in conflict.
In the interview, Duke expressed his support for vacation rentals and said he was re-zoning his own properties in order to recoup his six-figure investment in construction and renovations.
His views were reported in the first part of a series on vacation rentals by the Review.
Section 101 of the the Community Charter says that any councillor who declares conflict must not “attempt in any way, whether before, during or after such a meeting, to influence the voting on any question in respect of the matter.”
The charter goes on to state that anyone who violates that conflict must be removed from office “unless the contravention was done inadvertently or because of an error in judgement made in good faith.”
Duke received approval to run his second property as a vacation rental at the January 12 meeting of council, before the article was published.
Mayor Mark McKee commended Duke for withdrawing the application.
“I think that was the right thing for councillor Duke to do but I think it’s worthwhile mentioning that part of the price of sitting at this table is that sometimes it affects your private business and that has to be taken into consideration,” said McKee.
It’s not the first time Duke has found himself surrounded by controversy regarding vacation rentals. Last year, he was questioned several times during the Mayor’s Report on EZ Rock about managing illegal vacation rentals.