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Council debates STR policy in Old Town Rossland

Rossland city staff seek direction from council on short term rental policy
Rossland city council was asked to clarify short-term rental policy for city staff. (Black Press file photo)

The debate on short-term rentals continued at Rossland council meeting last Monday, Nov. 20.

Following a committee of the whole (CoW) meeting Nov. 6, city staff requested that council give more clarity on how to proceed with creating a policy/bylaw for short-term rental (STRs) suites in Rossland.

Coun. Jeff Weaver opened the robust discussion by advocating for restrictions on secondary, detached suites and carriage houses; and asked that the new policy remain consistent with the Official Community Plan (OCP) regarding housing affordability and availability in the Golden City.

“We’re not hurting the tourism economy by not allowing short term rentals in Old Town, because there is plenty of capacity up at the ski hill, the hotels that exist in town, and a couple short term rentals at the golf course,” said Weaver.

The councillor also advocated for making it a clean slate in Old Town and treating all residents the same when it came to STR licensing, adding that a grandfather clause would be unfair.

“I think it’s fairly clear when it comes to affordability and housing, what we should be striving for,” said Weaver.

“Unfortunately, I do believe that STRs are negatively impacting affordability in this town and I think we need to take a strong position on this.”

Coun. Stewart Spooner indicated that what they were reviewing had already been addressed at the CoW meeting, when council considered allowing STRs in secondary suites within a principal dwelling, but not allow them in a detached secondary suites such as carriage houses or laneway homes.

However, according to a previous staff report, “If council wants to preserve the availability of all types of housing for a diverse amount of people as specified in the OCP, then STRs should not be permitted in any secondary suites.

“Secondary suites of any type are a separate dwelling unit and provide ideal long term rental opportunities for people with lower incomes.

“This is explicitly stated in Rossland’s OCP.”

Currently, there are 37 short-term rentals in Old Town, and the majority would be affected by restricting STRs to principal residences only.

“Of these, five are principal residences and four are BnBs that already are renting rooms in a principal residence so they could apply for a business license under the proposed new regulations,” said city planner Stacey Lightbourne.

“So the proposed new regulations impacts 28 properties.”

Spooner said he was also concerned about unaffordability, but doesn’t think STR policy created the problem.

He questioned the fairness of letting affluent property owners at Red or Redstone capitalize on STRs, while homeowners in downtown Rossland are prohibited STRs that would help subsidize their mortgage and make living more affordable.

“We’re also pushing all the economic development up at Red Mountain,” said Spooner. “All these absentee landowners … they are going to be able to make a bunch of money and subsidize their lives with short-term rentals, and all the people in Rossland aren’t.”

The city initially permitted secondary suites and carriage homes in every zone in Rossland to increase the amount of housing options in the community, particularly for renters, when it first made policy 20 years ago.

However, the recent Housing Needs Assessment states groups facing the greatest challenge finding and affording housing are seasonal workers, service sector and tourism industry workforce, seniors, single-parent households, and youth and young adults.

Secondary suites (detached and attached) are ideal for housing these groups.

“For me, it’s about what do we want in the community,” said Mayor Andy Morel, adding that council received several emails from residents, asking for caution.

“We opened Pandora’s box in 2004 in offering guesthouse policy and then beyond that, STR policy,” said Morel.

“We opened that issue and folks that were able took advantage of it, but right now we have to be very careful, we can’t be permissive then pull it back.

“I am going to advocate for more restrictive STR regulations in the community and in Old Town Rossland.”

Coun. Mya Provencal brought up the potential economic effects and that short-term rentals can cause inflated housing prices and result in Rossland residents losing their homes.

Coun. Craig Humpherys said he does not think that a more permissive approach to STRs will make housing less affordable, or affect the availability of long term rentals.

After more discussion, Weaver tabled a motion to restrict short-term rentals to principal residences only (the same as Fernie), and not allow secondary suites or guesthouses.

The controversial subject passed 4-2 with Spooner and Humpherys voting against.

Council also passed a motion, 4-2, to eliminate the grandfather clause and apply regulations to all STRs in Old Town Rossland, with Humpherys and Morel opposing.

As noted in the report, the motions only serve as parameters for staff to come up with a cohesive bylaw addressing short-term rentals.

“Short-term rental regulations alone will not solve housing challenges in Rossland,” said the staff report.

“It is just one piece of a larger puzzle that will be further clarified with the upcoming Housing Action Plan.”

Council is also tasked with establishing boundaries for Red Mountain and will consider in future.

READ: Fed applaud B.C. move to limit short term rentals

Jim Bailey

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