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Sechelt council has endorsed new STR regulations – here's what they are

Sechelt has gone ahead with a plan to allow up to 15 unhosted short-term rentals in the municipality.
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The District of Sechelt has new short term rental rules.

Sechelt is going ahead with a plan to allow up to 15 unhosted short-term rentals in the municipality. 

Council gave three readings to amendments to the business licence and bylaw notice enforcement bylaws and endorsed a short-term rental operators guide on Sept. 7. The district will also implement a two-year monitoring program for the regulations. 

The nine-page operators guide defines the three types of STRs:

  • Type 1: principal residence,
  • Type 2: self-contained suite on principal residence property,
  • Type 3: secondary residence.

Only individuals, not companies, are allowed to operate STRs in the District of Sechelt. All STR operators are required to have a business licence and Type 3 STRs require a temporary use permit (TUP) before applying for the business licence. Only 15 Type 3 STRs are to be allowed.

STRs will be primarily regulated under the business licence bylaw, which is a concurrent project to the new Zoning Bylaw 580. Some of the STR regulations will be included in Bylaw 580.

How to pay for regulation

Mayor Darnelda Siegers said she’d like to have the regulations be revenue-neutral, and would likely need to hire a bylaw officer who is available on weekends. She asked about the cost, and whether 15 TUPs can recoup that cost.

Sechelt’s existing TUP application fee is $1,800, and council previously directed staff to make the licence fees for Type 3 STRs $3,000. Fifteen TUPs would equate to $72,000 in the first year, but $45,000 in the second year.

Staff estimate that there will be 20 Type 1 applications at a $500 licence fee per year, plus $200 for those that do not already have a business licence, bringing in an estimated $12,000 in revenue. Staff estimate 150 Type 2 licence fees at $900 each (plus an estimated half paying the fee for a new business licence), bringing in upward of $150,000 in that category. Director of planning and development Andrew Allen said if the revenue is to account for a full-time bylaw position and costs incurred, it will not be revenue-neutral.

Councillor Brenda Rowe said, “If 15 is not going to pay for it then I'm not interested in 15 being that number.”

Coun. Matt McLean said his personal goal is to have bylaw enforcement on weekends, and pointed to Type 2 as the “revenue generator” that could make the whole program revenue-neutral, to which councillors Eric Scott and Alton Toth agreed. Toth added that adjustments can be made at the two-year review, and that “it's going to be a little bumpy but I think it is at least a path forward.”

Siegers said she supports the rest of the motions on the table but “would prefer seeing a higher number” of TUPs allowed, to bring in enough revenue to make the program revenue-neutral and to ease the change on current operators who have “built a lifestyle around this.” McLean suggested adding an amendment that additional temporary use permits may be considered for hosted properties with greater than two suites, which received a unanimous vote in favour from council.

Neighbourhood delineations?

McLean asked about further defining neighbourhoods regarding the density and proximity of short-term rentals. In response, Allen said, “We didn't want to make one particular neighborhood in Sechelt the short-term rental neighborhood, per se,” and suggested other approaches including neighbour notification and based on performance. “Perhaps it's a better opportunity to do that than arbitrary distance numbers or units for neighborhoods which don't always have defined boundaries,” Allen said.

How to choose the 15 TUPs

Councillors also had questions about the number of TUPs proposed, and how the 15 successful applicants would be chosen if all applicants are alike and meet the requirements.

Staff are proposing a January application period, when applications would be reviewed in one batch with public notice, and it would become a policy decision for council to make — not a first come, first served basis. The report to council would include information such as the number of complaints and feedback from the notification area.

At the conclusion of the discussion, McLean said, “What we have done today is change the economics of operating a short term rental in Sechelt. It's going to cost a lot more for all operators. And that's really reflective of some of the impacts that short-term rentals have on our communities. But we're going to use those funds generated from short-term rentals towards implementing something like weekend bylaw coverage, which should really help our neighborhood stay good neighbors. These regulations may not solve our housing crisis but they're a step in the right direction.” 

He also invited the public to continue to write to council, as the review period would only be two years away. The business licence and bylaw notice enforcement bylaw amendments still need to pass adoption. 

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