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Councillor - Town of Blue Mountains

The Importance of moving forward with an STA Licensing By-law

Re:  BMRA Statement to Council on the STA Licensing By-law – April 15th, 2013

I might note that the Blue Mountain Ratepayers’ Association has already submitted a lengthy critique of the draft By-law as requested during the pre-consultation session, so I will only provide a short statement emphasizing the importance of moving forward with Licencing at this time.

  • Licencing is the final step in a long journey to fix a long simmering problem between residents, who want to pursue and deserve peaceful enjoyment of their properties, and STA Operators who are in business to make a profit.
  • The OMB concluded firstly, that “the evidence of conflict is categorical “(meaning the evidence is positively undeniable and conclusive) and secondly, that regulating STAs will create a more compatible situation while supporting a strong, liveable and healthy community.
  • The BMRA believes that Licencing is a necessary tool to help bridge the gap between these two conflicting uses (residential vs. commercial). It will also help level the playing field with other competing tourist accommodation providers such as hotels, motels, B&Bs and resort units. It will also help enforce health and safety and property standards to better protect the travelling public and promote a better Tourism Industry.
  • Why do we believe this? Because other tourist towns and cities like Whistler, Vancouver, Victoria and Canmore have all had positive experiences with STA Licencing over many years, where both the communities and the tourist industry have improved and have continued to thrive beyond expectations.
  • In order to address the compatibility issues, the Town has already identified many appropriately zoned areas where STAs can legitimately operate and, we know that many of the existing STAs are already located and operating in these areas. In designating these areas, the Town both recognizes and supports STA business enterprises and these areas will allow them to grow and service their particular accommodation market, while licencing under a “grandfather” provision will help support a more sustainable, enjoyable and healthy community for its residents in other low density residential zones.
  • In addition to compatibility issues, we believe that licencing will help reduce the burden to the taxpayers. Currently, in the absence of on-site management and regulations, responsibility for monitoring disruptive activity of some occupants of STAs has fallen on the shoulders of neighbours, police and by-law enforcement officers. As the number of STAs increased, so did the number of incidents requiring police and by-law resources. These service costs are now being paid for by all residents through higher taxes. Once licencing is in place and STA owners/operators take on more responsibility to manage the problems created by their occupants, then policing and by-law enforcement costs should become more stable/manageable and more reflective of the costs borne by other accommodation providers.
  • The cost of licencing will be paid for by the businesses that profit from the activity, as it should be. It is a legitimate cost of doing business.
  • So, will licencing solve all of the problems? Of course not! There will always be people who choose to ignore/break the rules. But, at least with licencing, there will be a mechanism in place to impose and collect fines because right now, STAs appear to operate with impunity (without any type of punishment).
  • You can expect that there will be a concerted effort to lobby against regulation and of course, licencing. However, the BMRA believes that it is your job to see through this self-serving effort and do the right thing. We also recognize that you must achieve a fair balance between the goal of businesses to make bigger profits and the goal of the community to be a wonderful place to live.
  • The BMRA has worked hard over the years to support the residents and the Town’s efforts to bring this problem to a fair and equitable resolution for all parties. The issues of STAs has been studied and debated for many years and the decisions by the Town to regulate them have been supported by the OMB and the courts. A lot of time, effort and monies have been expended to get this far because the business of STAs is so lucrative and the proponents have deep pockets. Hundreds of thousands of businesses are licenced in Ontario and the rest of Canada. They are licenced for many of the same reasons that licencing is recommended for STAs. We believe that this business will adapt and continue to thrive.
  • The BMRA speaks for the residents of this community that thought they were buying into a great community to live. These residents now need their elected official to do the right thing and pass the Licencing By-law, sooner rather than later, so that they can all get on with their lives – a quality of life that they should expect and so deserve.