The temporary use permits (TUP) are part of the town’s implementation of its new residential guest accommodation (also known as short-term rental) regulations adopted in July and are intended as part of a phase out of that variety of STR. But whether the new council will carry out the spirit of its predecessor’s legislation or chart its own course is yet to be seen.
All temporary use permits to expire at the end of 2024
At its Dec. 6 regular meeting, Gibsons council approved the permits and set a Dec. 31, 2024 expiration. It resolved that future short-term rental temporary use permits – even if they come a year from now – would also expire at that time. Council also extended the regulations’ enforcement grace period to the end of January rather than the beginning of the month.
The permits are for rentals of entire homes, secondary suites, or garden suites that aren’t principal residences (so the dwellings are rented for more than three months of the year). Other kinds of short-term rentals, like bed and breakfasts and renting out of a principal residence for less than three months, are allowed without a TUP under the new regulations.
The TUP application fee for residential guest accommodation without a permanent resident (again, better known as an unhosted STR) is $1,500 and its business licence fee is $2,000. As of Nov. 15, Gibsons had reviewed 37 TUP applications and pre-applications, 27 were submitted and 22 were deemed eligible for council review.
As per council direction, the municipality hosted an information session about the regulations for potential operators on Dec. 7.
At the council meeting, the public was invited to comment on each TUP. The majority of speakers were property owners explaining their applications and the local economic, personal financial, familial and tourist benefits of their small businesses. The meeting agenda revealed several applications had elicited letters from neighbours voicing concerns about commercial operations in residential areas, noise and neighbourhood character, parking and potential for lost housing stock. Some applications also elicited support from neighbours, citing positive experiences with the rentals.
Play by play
Coun. Annemarie De Andrade asked the criteria for revoking a TUP.
Director of planning Lesley-Anne Staats said that it was up to council how tolerant they wanted to be with operators.
“[The permit] does say, should the permit holder fail to adhere to and comply with all the terms and conditions set out herein the TUP shall be void and no longer valid for the lands. So at that point council could put limitations in there,” said Staats.
While discussions around number of complaints before revocation and other conditions were discussed, none were imposed at the meeting.
Mayor Silas White said that though he’s long advocated for STR regulation, he doesn’t support the bylaw. But, “This is the bylaw we have and we have to move forward with it,” he said.
Given the low number of applicants and the number of operations known to exist, White said he’s “not sure” about the long-discussed 50-TUP cap, at least the first year of applications.
It was also White’s suggestion that the TUP terms all end at the end of 2024, at which point council can consider the best way forward.
White pointed to the need for tourist accommodation in an increasingly tourism-dependent community and that short-term rentals have become part of the town’s social and economic fabric. “I do think that we do need to work on phasing some out that are big community concerns,” said White. “But other than that, I think we should be seriously reviewing this process in two years time.”
Coun. Stafford Lumley skipped debate and moved to approve all of the permits. “You can't go down this road of now saying well, what about this? What about this? The bylaws is the bylaw,” he said, noting that he had voted against the regulations last term. Lumley voiced sympathy for those with concerns with some of the TUP applications, but, “We've gone past that point. And I feel bad for you. But I think that we have to stay with it. We have to like chew on it and make [the bylaw] better.
“These people are actually complying with [the bylaw] and now we're gonna sit up here and say that, well, I don't like this guy. I don't like that guy. We can't do that.”
Coun. David Croal, seconding Lumley’s motion, said it’s “not always possible to have the perfect bylaw out of the gate” but that this was a means of regulating STRs other than by complaint, which the town hasn’t had up to now. It’s also a means of tracking and making sure facilities meet certain criteria, said Croal.
Lumley’s motion caught White off-guard. “I wasn't expecting a motion to approve all of them,” he said. “It is council's job here to really consider these and consider our own criteria.” He added that he was concerned with some of the applications, including some that have no history and one where he didn’t think the house was built yet.
De Andrade put forward an amendment to remove 13 applications as she had further questions or concerns. White clarified that removing those would mean the permits would be considered rejected. The amendment was defeated.
All four present council members (White, De Andrade, Lumley and Croal) voted in favour of approving the permits. Coun. Christi Thompson recused herself from the deliberations (as she has in previous meetings) because of a conflict of interest.
“The conflict arises from the fact that the prior Council expressed the intention of residential guest accommodations located within the harbor area plan boundaries of lower Gibsons to be given the priority when considering which of these permits may be granted or denied,” said Thompson. “Further recommendation on this agenda today is to consider potentially not more than 50 temporary use permits, which would also suggest a conflict of interest, since today's decision of council may be to either fix or extend that area as well as consider whether to cap the total of temporary use permits the outcome of my own application, which is not part of this 22 on the agenda. A permit could be affected by the precedent set by Council today. My conflict of interest extends to these issues only and not in regard to other aspects of the residential guest accommodations.”
Council did not pass the recommendation that staff be directed to process no more than 50 TUPs.