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Councillor - Town of Blue Mountains

STA Owner/Operators reject Town Licensing By-law and draft their own

The STA (Short Term Accommodation) Stakeholder Committee appointed by Council in early May is made up 100% of STA owner/operators and associated business interests – setup for the sole purpose to avoid any compelling regulation.

The Committee’s makeup and obvious ‘conflict of interest’ adversely affects the credibility of their recommendations and amended draft by-law (which can be viewed on the Town website under the July 2nd Agenda and Minutes –B.2 STA#1).

The history of this issue is well known.  The growth of internet advertising together with increased competition between commercial tourist accommodation providers has exposed some serious health and safety risks for tourists in addition to the problems caused by the uncontrolled migration of this commercial use into residentially zoned areas. By moving into residential neighborhoods with no buffering, high occupancy loads, and no interest in addressing incompatibilities, these STA businesses have had a negative and destructive impact on the ‘quality of life’ of the families who live here.  In our opinion, residents’ rights and well-being are considered inconsequential compared to the STA owner/operators’ goal of increased profits, even though the OMB ruled in the residents’ favour.

We are a four seasons’ resort destination with over 1.8 Million visitors last year – similar in size to Whistler who had 2 Million.  We are easily accessed by many roads and have many cities and towns within an easy commute but Whistler was dismissed as a model by the Committee in favour of the ineffective STA licencing by-law from the small isolated town of Sechelt, BC – which by the way, is only accessible by ferry or plane.   This town bears no resemblance to ours but their by-law appears to be very favourable to STA operators and difficult to enforce.  The Committee then proceeded to weaken it further by adding unnecessarily complicated conditions and quantitative measures to hamper sanctions.

We believe that the recommendations of a self-interest group are not an appropriate substitute for a bylaw drafted by Professional Planners and vetted by Legal Counsel, who are charged with protecting the public interest, the health and safety of all persons (the travelling public as well as residents), and providing effective nuisance control.

Simple questions that need to be considered and answered by Town staff and Council when examining this revised draft by-law are:

  • Does it solve or mitigate the problem?
  • Does it encourage proactive instead of reactive compliance practices?
  • Is it fair and cost effective to enforce?

On July 12th, 2013 the BMRA STA Committee provided the Mayor and Council with feedback concerning the STA Stakeholder Committee’s recommendations, including a point by point analysis of the changes to the town’s original draft by-law.  It is our understanding that consideration will be given to ensure that our concerns are addressed as part of staff’s review process, which is estimated to be completed sometime in September.

Our rising police and by-law enforcement costs will not be contained until a new fair but enforceable licencing regime is implemented that encourages STA operators take full responsibility for managing all aspects of their business, including pro-actively monitoring the activities taking place in their properties before problems arise.  As taxpayers, we have spent a significant amount of money and resources dealing with this issue.  It is time to get this process back on track and move forward, not backwards.