A Toronto-based lawyer says Oro-Medonte Township’s current strategy to combat short term rentals (STRs) in the municipality is “illegal and in bad faith and needs to end.” 

Barry Sookman, who heads up the Oro-Medonte Association for Responsible STRs, said the Ontario Land Tribunal ruling on the legality of STRs in Oro-Medonte in 2022 was clear cut. Ontario Land Tribunal vice-chair Sharyn Vincent ruled Oro-Medonte bylaw No. 2020-073, which sought to regulate short-term rentals, be repealed.

“The Ontario Land Tribunal expressly ruled against Oro-Medonte when the bylaw was challenged,” Sookman said. “Since then, Oro-Medonte has been deliberately misinforming the public that operating STRs in Oro-Medonte is illegal.”

According to Sookman, whose association represents many homeowners who rent their primary or secondary residences in the township on a short-term basis, Oro-Medonte’s actions are having financial and reputational consequences. He said bookings are being cancelled and some guests are concerned they may be breaking the law.

“A fairly large percentage of our guests are new Canadians,” Sookman said. “They’re new to the country and they’re not sure what’s allowed and what isn’t. When they see the township is telling them their vacation place is illegal, they don’t know what to do.”

According to Jenny Legget, Oro-Medonte’s communications officer, the township is respecting the OLT decision and its communications programs are forthright. 

Oro-Medonte sought and obtained leave to appeal the OLT decision, she said. The appeal is expected to be heard in January 2024.

“As a result of our successful appeal, the interim control bylaw 2018-071 is back in place,” Legget said.

Legget said there are only two areas in Oro-Medonte where STRs are allowed — Village 1 (Horseshoe Resort) and the Carriage Hills/Carriage Ridge developments — and the township is committed to investigating any and all reports concerning illegal STRs.

The township adopted a zero-tolerance position on STRs earlier this year and as a result, has 28 properties that are under investigation for non-permitted use, according to a recent report to council from Curtis Shelswell, the township’s manager of municipal law services.

Sookman alleges Oro-Medonte’s municipal law enforcement is acting on direction from council and has filed a complaint with the Ontario Ombudsman.

“My complaint was a request to open an investigation into the township’s undue influence over bylaw enforcement officers,” Sookman said.

In his complaint, Sookman also wants the provincial ombudsman to investigate what he calls “bad faith harassment of law-abiding property owners.”

He also says Oro-Medonte is engaged in a “misinformation campaign” about STRs and its attempts to “circumvent” the OLT decision via its Official Plan amendment.

Legget said township council isn’t allowed to direct staff. 

She said she would not comment on the complaint because the township has not received notice of any pending investigation.

By Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 31, 2023 at 06:31

This item reprinted with permission from   BarrieToday   Barrie, Ontario

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