An online petition has been launched to amend a new bylaw that limits the number of short-term rental properties – any living space rented out for less than 30 days – in a rural municipality on the shores of Lake Huron.
The Municipality of Bluewater implemented the final phase of its bylaw on Aug. 15 that restricts the number of short-term rental properties, such as Airbnbs, owners are allowed to rent out.
“(The bylaw) added these location limits,” said Tyler Bartelen, who owns two income properties in Bluewater and created the online petition. “I (don’t) think they (have) been fully thought through, the implications of them,” he said.
Bluewater includes communities such as Bayfield and Saint Joseph, and has many cottages because of its proximity to Lake Huron. Grand Bend, a highly popular destination for beachgoers, is also a short drive from the municipality.
Bluewater created the bylaw in response to numerous complaints to bylaw enforcement about large gatherings at rental properties, said Aaron Stewardson, the municipality’s manager of development services.
Bylaw enforcement was receiving complaints about “noise, large amounts of people, large gatherings, parties, people renting places and having weddings, and having 200 to 300 people show up to a small residential lot,” he said.
The bylaw has two conditions that irk prospective and current owners who require a licence from the municipality to operate short-term rentals.
The first condition caps the number of short-term rental properties to 15 per cent per street.
The second condition prevents short-term rental properties to be on shared property lines. If your neighbour has a short-term rental already, you can forget about the municipality granting you a licence.
Bartelen, a London realtor, owns two properties in Bluewater that he rents out as short-term rentals. He said the bylaw will negatively affect the municipality’s economy, especially in Bayfield that he said is heavily dependent on tourism.
Provisions in the bylaw were included to account for tourism income, said Bayfield Coun. Bill Whetstone.
“Anybody that previously had been renting, and there was a certain date (they had to apply by), was grandfathered with a short-term rental licence,” he said.
Stewardson said it’s too early to tell, but doesn’t believe tourism dollars will be affected by the bylaw.
Bartelen thinks the bylaw is driving investors out of the region, “because there’s uncertainty if you can get the licence,” he said. “I can’t market it for sale to another investor (because the licences aren’t transferable to the next owner).”
Stewardson said council wants to ensure there’s a good supply of homes for the public.
“Council has been very, very thoughtful of this,” he said. “They don’t want our residential areas, and especially large lake-fronting properties, to become more commercialized,” he said.
Bluewater charges $750 for a short-term rental licence that requires yearly renewal.
The fine for short-term rentals caught operating without a licence is $900.
The petition to remove “location limits” from the bylaw has collected 125 signatures as of Monday, but there is no indication the bylaw will be reviewed soon.
“We’ve already discussed that we will review it in about a year’s time and see if we need to make any changes or not,” Whetstone said.
By Brian Williams, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 17, 2023 at 10:37