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Councillor - Town of Blue Mountains

Town moves forward with STA Licensing Regime

On June 22, 2011, the Ontario Municipal Board approved Official Plan Amendment No. 11 and Zoning By-law Amendments respecting Short Term Accommodation uses.

During the course of the 2012 Budget process, Council directed that staff consider re-allocating existing resources to implementing proactive STA enforcement and also to report back on the overall enforcement and licencing of STA uses prior to the 2013 Town Budget process.

On June 6th, 2012, The Director of Planning & Building Services presented a report to the committee requesting Council’s approval to proceed with the finalization of a Draft Short term Accommodation (STA) Licencing By-law, proceed with a Public Meeting so as to receive comments on the By-law and approve the start-up funding for the program.

Does the Town have the authority to Licence? The report outlined the Town’s authority under Subsection 10(2) of the Municipal Act and the many reasons why they can pass a licencing by-law with respect to a business and the right to impose fees and/or charges related to the administration and enforcement of a licencing system.

Why is a STA Licencing Program Required? The report also outlined some of the desired outcomes of a STA Licencing By-law i.e. addressing the health and life-safety issues, appropriate zoning, identifying reliable contacts for self-regulating issues, addressing overcrowding, addressing consumer protection, ensuring adequately maintained properties, ensuring the availability of adequate and appropriate parking, ensuring adequate waste management measures are in place, addressing nuisance control through adequate penalties such as suspension and/or revocation of a licence, and ensuring that there is no financial burden on the taxpayer.

What are the costs associated with a STA Licencing Program? The report states that a special licencing officer and one part-time support staff will be required to develop and implement the program policies and procedures, forms, general information packages, inspection protocols, software updating/revisions, establishment of a term of reference for the Appeals Committee and put into place all other necessary administrative practices. Based on the Licencing By-law coming into effect on March 1, 2013, the estimated start-up costs for 4 months in 2012 would be $53,500 and for two months in 2013 would be $28,500. The total estimated annual costs are estimated to be $164,400.

How will the STA Licencing Program be financed? The report is recommending that the start-up costs be borrowed from the Town’s Working Capital Reserve and be paid back over a 5 year period from annual licencing fees. The estimated annual costs at $164,400 will be fully funded from licencing fees and will include an annual repayment of a town loan over a 5 year period ($16,400 per year). Based on this assumption and based on a very conservative estimate of approximately 100 -150 licenced premises, annual licencing fees per premise would be in the magnitude of $1,100 to $1,650 per annum. Of course, the fee is expected to be lower given the growth in the STA numbers and Town files over the past 2-3 years.

What are merits in proceeding with a STA Licencing Program? A Licencing program is the only way to address the economic, social and environmental well-being of the municipality; it’s the only way to address the health, safety and well-being of the residents and the travelling public; and it’s the only way to provide adequate protection to all persons and property, especially within single family residential neighbourhoods.

What happens next? At the meeting held on June 6th, 2012, the Committee unanimously approved the recommendations of the report, as amended (McKinlay/Ardiel), and was adopted by Council in the Consent Agenda of June 11th, 2012. The amendment directed staff to conduct stakeholder consultations regarding the draft STA Licencing By-law and the STA Licencing Program in advance of the scheduled public meeting, which is expected sometime in the fall.

The ratepayers are considered a stakeholder in this program and the BMRA-STA Committee will definitely be offering their thoughts, opinions and recommendations. If you have any comments that you want to pass on to the BMRA- STA Committee, please advise me as soon as possible (mpseguin@rogers.com). If you want to review the entire report and a draft of the STA Licencing By-law prepared in consultation with Aird & Berlis LLP, it can be viewed on the Town website under Local Government – Minutes and Agendas – June 6, 2012- P & B Committee Meeting  C.9 – Report B.12.13 of June 6, 2012.

On another matter, I attended the Divisional Court hearing in Toronto on June 7th, 2012 that was held to determine whether there were sufficient grounds for a “Leave for Appeal” of the OMB decision with regards to the STA Official Plan and Zoning Amendments.

These are just some my thoughts only. The appellants’ lawyers appeared to argue that the Town provided insufficient or no analysis (no studies) of the complaints and therefore the Board made a decision based on little substance. They argued that there was no evaluation of the impact on tourism and the words “prohibition”, “reasonableness” and “fairness” were used often. They argued that changes were introduced behind “closed-doors’ and there was not proper public consultation or legal notice of the changes. Finally, they argued the OP and Zoning Amendments were a form of “discrimination” and would prevent people from coming to the community (a “zoning out”) and that this was a form of government power to stop uses of property.

A lot more was said and I’m sure there may be different interpretations of the proceedings. In any event, the Court Judge said that she would have a ruling in about two weeks time, depending on her schedule. No decision has been made at the time of this writing but we hope to have one by the end of June. State tuned!

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