On Revelstoke: Scott Duke needs to make a decision

Scott Duke needs to either give up managing illegal vacation rentals, or he needs to step down from council.

Councillor Scott Duke takes the oath of office in December 2014.

Councillor Scott Duke takes the oath of office in December 2014.

Scott Duke needs to make a decision. He needs to either give up managing illegal vacation rentals, or he needs to step down from council.

Gary Starling deserves credit for bringing the issue to the forefront at last week’s council meeting. It took his outrage at council for me to look into the issue and realize that Duke’s company Revelstoke Vacation Rentals is managing several properties that either don’t have the proper zoning or don’t have a business license.

What makes the situation untenable is the fact at least two of the properties Revelstoke Vacation Rentals manages had their applications rejected by council, yet they are still listed on the company’s website and appear to be taking bookings.

That just flies in the face of what the city is trying to do by encouraging people to legalize their vacation rentals and pursuing active enforcement against those that don’t. It shows a city councillor is thumbing his nose at his colleagues’ decisions.

It also shows how toothless the city’s active enforcement policy is. As Allan Chabot, the City of Revelstoke’s Chief Administrative Officer, noted to me, there is more than 100 illegal vacation rentals across the city. Some are single bedrooms in people’s homes, others are suites and some are full homes.

Bylaw enforcement seems more interested in giving out parking and animal control tickets and the planning department is understaffed and doesn’t have the resources to pursue operators of illegal rentals.

The city’s cap on vacation rentals encouraged many people to come forward, which is good. The public hearing process has been ugly but it’s also shed light on the flaws in the current policy. I was waiting until the current slate of applications was processed before writing more on the subject, but as is sometimes the case, events have forced the issue.

Pretty soon, the number of legal vacation rental rooms in the city will hit the cap of 125. The city plans to add a separate zoning for secondary-suite vacation rentals, but they also need to look at the permanency of the zoning; many are concerned with what happens if a bad owner buys the home. The city also needs to upgrade enforcement.

Meanwhile, Duke needs to ask himself which side of the issue he wants to be on. His company has been trying to coax the home owner’s whose properties they manage to become legal, with minimal success. I’m not opposed to allowing some leniency to home owners who applied to be legalized but had their applications caught up in the queue. But, if an application is rejected by council, that should the final word. It should go back in the long-term rental market.

If a city councillor is willing to break the rules, why shouldn’t you?