At the end of last week’s four-hour council meeting, which mostly dealt with vacation rentals, I asked how many complaints the city received about vacation rentals this winter.
Dean Strachan, the city’s manager of development services, said they received five or six complaints relating to three different properties, however one wasn’t actually a vacation rental.
That’s a very small number given the rancor that emerges every time they come up. I’ve reported on the issue extensively, and they’ve been a hot topic at numerous public hearings and council meetings.
Part of me wonders if the whole issue is overblown. Sure, there’s a few bad apples, but for the most part, given the small number of complaints, the situation isn’t that bad and council shouldn’t be too reactive when it takes another look at the issue next week.
At the same time, I wonder if city hall isn’t hearing all the complaints. The problem is that the city’s bylaw enforcement officers only work weekdays, but most vacation rental complaints come at night or on the weekend. That means calls go to the police, who don’t track whether or not a noise complaint comes from a vacation rental, a private home, or a house full of ski bums.
I agree with councillor Linda Nixon when she says the city has a good bylaw. It just needs to be used and enforced propertly.
Three things need to be done. First, council needs to make sure they listen to the neighbourhood whenever one comes up for approval.
Secondly, the contact number for the property manager should not only be posted inside the rental, but should also be made available to the neighbours so they know who to call when there is a problem. At the same time, the city should implement times for addressing issues.
Finally, the city needs to find a solution for enforcement so that neighbourhoods aren’t disturbed by a bad group of renters.
The bylaw enforcement issue extends beyond vacation rentals. On Saturday, Stuart Andrews approached me at the farmers market to express his frustration with the noise coming from 24/7 crushing operation happening at a gravel pit near his home. There was no one available to respond to noise complaints except for the police.
Coun. Trevor English, who chairs the city’s security committee, says they’re looking at the issue. It will be interesting to see if they come up with a solution.