By Keith Lacey
Special to OsoyoosToday
Oliver residents will be allowed the opportunity to provide input before council finalizes rules and regulations relating to short-term vacation rental properties.
Following a 30-minute discussion at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting, council voted to undertake public consultations on whether to allow vacation rentals as a permitted accessory use in low-density residential zones.
Contract planner Christopher Garrish told council that while vacation rentals have emerged in communities across B.C. as an important form of tourist accommodation over the past decade — and have allowed homeowners to generate a revenue stream to offset high property costs — they have also generated myriad concerns and complaints.
Some of those complaints include changing the character of a neighbourhood by removing a dwelling from residential use, increasing the cost of housing and real estate, reducing the number of long-term rentals and creating conflicts in residential neighbourhoods through the generation of excessive noise, parking congestion and unsightly premises.
Staff have completed a review of what other communities in the region are doing in relation to allowing short term vacation rentals – defined as any stay by visitors less than 30 days – and the challenge is to strike a balance between regulations and enforcement, said Mr. Garrish.
A report for council discussed last September indicates short-term vacation rentals are already occurring in Oliver and appear to be more prevalent than tradition bed-and-breakfast operations, he added.
Of the 24 properties identified as potentially comprising an operating vacation rental, most were in a zone that only permits single-detached homes as the principal type of dwelling unit.
Council has the option of prohibiting short-term vacation rentals within all zones or allowing them, which would require an amendment to the town’s Official Community Plan bylaw in order to address the current limitation on commercial uses in the residential designations, he said.
There hasn’t been any public consultation with local residents regarding support for vacation rentals as a permitted use in residential zones, Mr. Garish told Council.
It’s estimated that only 10 per cent of short-term vacation rental operators will voluntarily comply with a licensing or permitting scheme, but this figure increases to 90 percent if operators believe they will be caught through active enforcement by local government, he added.
Coun. Larry Schwartzenberger said it’s his understanding that two property owners in Oliver have already applied for and received business licences to operate short-term vacation rental businesses, so it’s obvious to him council should move forward with implementing rules and regulations to allow these businesses in residential zones.
Coun. Aimee Grice said her main concern was the effect allowing short-term vacation rentals would have on long-term rental properties, noting she was worried some properties would be busy for six months of the year and sit empty the other six months.
Mayor Martin Johansen said municipalities across the province are dealing with this issue and he believes the time has come to determine how to manage and control short-term vacation rentals either through issuing business licenses or introducing a new bylaw that would control where these business can operate and other rules and regulations.
Several councillors mentioned it would be their preference that any bylaw or business license include provisions that would guarantee that property owners wanting to rent out short-term vacation properties would be on-site at all times to monitor their visitors during their stay in Oliver.
Details of the public consultation meetings are expected to be announced soon.