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Councillor - Town of Blue Mountains

Sheldon Rosen et al v. Town of The Blue Mountains

Ontario Municipal Board

Re: File No. PL080455 Sheldon Rosen, the Lodges at Blue Mountain Corporation and Denis Martinek, Tyrolean Village Resorts Ltd. v. Town of the Blue Mountains

Re: Proposed Official Plan Amendment No. 11, Zoning By-law Nos. 2009- 03, 2009-04, 2009-05, Interim Control By-law Nos.2008-12 and 2008-67

Blue Mountain Ratepayers’ Association (BMRA) Participant Statement on behalf of the Town Hearing Date – August 23, 2010

My name is Michael Seguin and I’m here to speak to the Board in my capacity as President of the Blue Mountain Ratepayers’ Association;

Our Association is a membership based organization and currently has 220 family memberships and 48 condo board memberships in the Town of the Blue Mountains representing 12 condominiums at the base of Blue and in the surrounding resort area; based on our memberships, the Association has the ability to reach out to over 1,500 taxpayers throughout the Town.

I also serve as a member of the Community Policing Committee in the Town of the Blue Mountains and I’m a Professional Real Estate Appraiser by trade having the AACI designation with the Appraisal Institute of Canada.

The Board of Directors for the Association have authorized me to speak to the Board on behalf of the membership about the general nature of a serious and “deep rooted” problem that exists in our community, and more specifically in our designated but unregulated zoned single family residential neighbourhoods.

Firstly, I want to state very clearly that the Blue Mountain Ratepayers’ Association is not against growth, economic development, tourism, business pursuits within the Town of the Blue Mountains or STA’s at the Blue Mountain Resort or in designated areas, but we are against a “proliferation” (and some will say an explosion) in the number of unregulated so-called commercial business uses or “for profit” business enterprises operating in residential properties zoned and designated specifically for single family use (or R1, R2, R3 and R4 zones).

For most people, their residence is considered their ‘home’ – a place where they can relax or seek sanctuary on a full-time time or part-time basis and live in a comfortable lifestyle without any fears or continuous disruptions. And it is generally accepted that most people also want to get to know their neighbours and co-exist peacefully with people who are investing similar time and energy in making the street and community a nice and safe place to live. At least, that’s the expectation of anyone moving into a single family residentially zoned neighbourhood.

We contend that business operators of Short Term Accommodations (or
STA’s) seek only financial profits, in order to pursue a quality of life
elsewhere. They don’t even live in the neighbourhood that they profit from
and nor do their clients (= why? would they want their families or grandchildren
exposed to the same course language, drunkenness, noise and other irregular behaviours exhibited by their clients?).

Right now, there are no barriers stopping a business operator from opening an STA in a single family residential zone – there are no Town regulations, no Town standards to protect the vacationing public and they enjoy an unfair property tax advantage over their competition such as the resort, hotels and motels. A property purchased or constructed for “single family residential use” is valued or assessed differently than a property that is purchased for “commercial business use”. However, if I was asked to appraise an STA today, I’m sure I would be expected to value the property based on its income generating potential and its Highest and Best Use as an Income Producing Property.

Over the years, some STA operators have rapidly expanded their business activities by creatively altering residential buildings to provide for larger sleeping capacities.

Some of the newer single family dwellings have been built with 6-8 bedrooms to accommodate larger groups of 20-30 renters, with no increased parking capacity – everyone knows that these larger dwellings aren’t built for meetings and/or conferences – they are built as “party houses” or mini-hotels to increase revenues for the business operator and are more comparable to a hostel, a rooming house or a bunk house type of accommodation than a single family residential dwelling.

With no current Town regulations and Town standards in place, we contend that the vacationing public may be exposed to situations of overcrowding, unsafe and unsanitary conditions. The property might not meet fire code and safety standards with regards to the number of bedrooms, egress to and from the building (especially basement units) and may not have adequate washroom facilities or standards of maintenance. This definitely puts the vacationing public at risk. (See Fire Dept. year end report).

Yes, absolutely!!!!!!!, as other participants will certainly attest to in their oral statements. The fact that the whole STA issue has been referred to the OMB is a clear indication that the two uses are not compatible and that the problems that exist have not been mitigated by enforcement of existing noise and parking by-laws.

The problems today now extend beyond just ordinary noise and parking issues and now include drunk and disorderly conduct, littering and garbage issues, trespassing and increased petty crimes (thefts, break-ins, etc) in residential neighbourhoods that were once considered quiet and safe for families to live in.

I’m told time and time again, that residents are at their wits end!!!! Why do I know that? Because I speak to them on a regular basis, I get many emails and phone calls and have had meetings with them and the Town. I also know from our introduction of the Neighbourhood Watch Program – a pilot project that was intentionally set up by the Association in the Craigleith Blue Mountain Resort, with the assistance and support of the Community Policing Committee, to help monitor increasing petty crime and nuisances (rowdyism) in the area where STA’s are prevalent.

For every problem reported, there are probably hundreds of incidents never reported to authorities. People just live with their frustration, fear, anger, anxiety, stress and discomfort, hoping and praying that someone else will have called or that the next group of STA clients will be well behaved. Whether they wanted or not, the onus has been left for residents to monitor the activities of these “party houses” (the appellant’s survey says so), in the absence of the landlord and this has become a real nuisance and is unfair to the residents of this community.

Many residents fear and in some cases have experienced retaliation for reporting incidents to the police. Other residents have been called “whiners” and have put up with name calling and taunts by partiers after police have left. Many wake up to find minor damage or property theft which they associate with retaliation.

Complaints to operators have resulted in serious threats of lawsuits and intimidation. These threats are purely self-serving, unproductive, disturbing and have added stress and psychological harm to the residents.

Needless to say, once considered quiet residential neighbourhoods are now being ‘wrecked’ with havoc and their property values are being negatively impacted. Part-time or weekenders) and seasonal residents will no longer want to retire here as their dream has now turned into a nightmare with most wanting to sell and move as far away as possible. This problem is so deep-rooted that residents fear when they see another house for sale (either next door, across the street or in close proximity) – that if sold that it could be another ‘party house’.

I think all the residents would agree that STA’s are a big business but rental operators don’t want any rules interfering with what they are doing – and why not!!! – they pay less property taxes being assessed for a single family use, pay no licensing fee, don’t meet Town property or safety standards, don’t pay Hotel/PST taxes or higher insurance rates for the businesses they carry on. They basically have an unfair tax advantage over their competition, so why would they want anything to change?

As with other businesses providing commercial lodging to the traveling public, the BMRA contends that STA’s should never have been permitted in single family residentially zoned areas but permitted in appropriately designated areas as set out in the Town’s proposed Official Plan and Zoning Amendments before this Board. The BMRA also contends that STA’s should be controlled and/or licensed at least in the same manner as other tourist accommodations such as resorts, hotels and motels. We contend that this is critical from a health and safety prospective in order to protect the vacationing public as well as show respect and protect the character and “quality of life” in existing single family residential neighbourhoods.

The Association fully supports the Town in all matters before you. A positive ruling in these matters will certainly provide an important step in formally recognizing and defining a short term accommodation as a commercial use and identifying the appropriate zoning and standards for operating these so-called new “tourist accommodation” types. A positive ruling will also ensure conformity to the Town’s #1 Goal in the Strategic Plan – “managing growth to ensure the ongoing health and prosperity of the community”. This should probably now read “sustainable community”.

In conclusion, I think most residents would also agree that the STA tourist business would not be harmed by having clients drive a few extra blocks to more appropriately designated and zoned dwellings where a “party atmosphere” would be expected and enjoyed. However, I think the residents of this community would also agree that a negative ruling in these matters would ultimately be devastating to our residential community and the harm would be irreparable.

What will happen if the STA business is unregulated? mant residents who are the foundation and ‘life-blood’ of this community will be forced to sell their homes and leave this community. atmosphere and mentality. Even legitimate and respectable tourists will not come anymore. What will they leave behind? I will tell you – many broken-down neighbourhoods that will develop into the Town’s worst nightmare – what I would call an unenforceable ‘Wild West’ atmosphere and mentality.  Even legitimate and respectable tourists will not come anymore.

I would like to end on the following note – a quote by taken from extensive research and a well written report on the Impacts of Tourism by Glen Kreag of the University of Minnesota dated April, 2001.

“For a tourism-based economy to sustain itself in local communities, the residents must be willing partners in the process. Their attitudes toward tourism and perceptions of its impact on community life must be continually assessed”.

Madame Chair, I want to thank you providing this opportunity to speak on behalf of all the members of the Blue Mountain Ratepayers Association.