There lingered many questions behind the logistics of administering and enforcing a short-term rental bylaw in Haliburton County’s municipalities.

After much discussion, county council decided July 26 to circulate a draft bylaw to the lower tier municipalities for adoption in the interest of consistency. County staff was directed to work with the municipalities to craft a request for proposals for a third party to administer the short-term rental program.

An effective date for the bylaw will be determined depending on feedback from the municipalities.

Steve Stone, the county’s planning director, said he’s taken a deep dive into the proposed bylaw to govern short-term rentals and he’s tightened some aspects and tweaked some others.

“The most critical piece of the bylaw that was changed really reflects council’s interest in allowing for operators to sign up and basically swear that their establishment is operating in accordance with all the rules and regulations,” he said.

Those would building codes and fire regulations and other guidelines.

“But there is a notwithstanding clause in the bylaw that allows municipal departments to do their own deep dive (and) hold back from issuing a licence is they have a concern that they may have heard about or may have seen in their own records,” Stone said.

Kawartha Lakes has recently adopted their own bylaw to regulate short-term rentals, and he said there are some points of interest for Haliburton County in that legislation.

He said that jurisdiction will open their licencing for anybody to apply until April 2024. The number of operators that apply by April 1 will be Kawartha Lakes’ licencing cap. Anybody to apply after that date will be put on a waiting list for a licence.

County council discussed issuing a call for expressions of interest from third parties who could maintain a directory of short-term rental operators. Stone said two outfits responded to the call.

“It was good to see that both of the service providers actually do have a toe in the Canadian market,” he said.

They both have a presence in Ontario. And they offer full service, which includes monitoring operators and issuing licences on behalf of the lower tier municipalities.

The differentiate themselves in the cost of the full service, Stone said.

Stone said the third party could take the administrative burden from the municipalities.

Warden Liz Danielsen, mayor of Algonquin Highlands, and Councillor Cecil Ryall, who is also the deputy mayor of Highlands East, agreed that there’s a major question of if the county or the lower tier municipalities will be the bylaw’s authority.

Ryall said governing short-term rentals bear many of the same jurisdictional questions that weighed debate over the Shoreline Preservation Bylaw.

“If there are challenges to it, then we’ll make adjustments accordingly,” Ryall said. “Leaving it at the moment as it’s worded with the lower tiers being technically responsible … I don’t have a problem with it.

“At the end of the day, is that where I want it to live? Ask me that in a couple months and I’ll answer that question better.”

“I’m sorry, Coun. Ryall, but to me that was as clear as mud,” Danielsen said. “I’m not quite sure what it is you’re saying.”

“I’m saying that I just don’t want to get into a debate over where things are going to live,” he said.

“We have to do that,” Danielsen said. “That’s what we have to decide today.” 

“Then that’s fine,” Ryall said. “Let’s do that.”

Coun. Murray Fearrey said he understands concerns about whether some municipalities have the staff needed to administer the short-term rental program. But, he said, farming the work out to a third party eliminates that problem.

“My understanding is that these people are going to do the registration, they’re going to collect the money, they’re going to flag those that have violated (the bylaw),” Fearrey said. “What we’re going to do is what we have to do local here because that’s where the bodies are.

“If we’re going to do a fire inspection, we have to do a building inspection, that’s where we’re going to do it. There will be some work there … but it’s minimal.”

Coun. Bob Carter, the mayor of Minden Hills, doesn’t favour the operator cap that Kawartha Lakes has in its bylaw.

“I would rather us in a year examine where we’re at and examine if we need to put in some sort of a cap or whatever,” Carter said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s a working document.”

Basically, Carter said it needs to be spelled out what the third party will do and what will be the responsibilities of the municipality, such as the various inspections.

It would be good is any kind of appeal process be held at the county level. That way, Carter said, it’ll be removed from the municipal level.

“We can’t accept it before we know what is it we need to be able to keep it going?” Carter said.

Danielsen suggested the licensing bylaw be passed with an effective date that might give the municipalities sufficient time to up-staff.

Michael Rutter, the county’s CAO, said municipalities each have the critical files like the various inspection reports to which the county wouldn’t have access. That’s the information that’s critical for licensing, he said.

“All of those files live at the local level,” Rutter said.

If the county is going to handle enforcement of the bylaw, the county will need that information.

Money from the license fees will generate a significant income for municipalities to get the staff to handle administration and enforcement.

“I have real concerns about how practical it is to get county staff to do it when we wouldn’t have access to any of the information,” Rutter said.

Everybody wants a consistent policy on cottage rentals, said Fearrey.

Danielsen agreed, but she said the hiccup is in the ability to manage enforcement. And it seems the third-party service providers aren’t willing to undertake enforcement.

Much back and forth ensued about enforcement, penalties, and other issues.

“I’m frustrated that we are starting to look like we can’t make a decision if our life depending on it because we’re been talking about this for year. Not six months,” said Danielsen.

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By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 04, 2023 at 08:17

This item reprinted with permission from   Haliburton County Echo   Haliburton, Ontario
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