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Sechelt eyes implementing short-term rental bylaw by year’s end

Councillor says issue is too urgent to wait for zoning bylaw review
Sechelt Municipal Hall 2
District of Sechelt municipal hall file photo.

An intense focus on short-term rentals in the community has Sechelt council taking a first step towards drafting regulations separate from its zoning bylaw.

At an April 7 regular council meeting, Coun. Alton Toth made a motion for staff to report back during the budget process with an estimate for hiring a consultant to research short-term rentals in Sechelt and engage with the community, “for the purposes of drafting a separate short-term rental regulation bylaw, which can be put into place before the end of 2021.”

Toth said he wanted to move ahead with a separate bylaw after hearing from the public and reviewing feedback from the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD)’s implementation of its short-term rental rules, which were adopted in 2020.

“It’s obvious to me it’s time to do something here in Sechelt on this issue and I don’t think it can wait until our zoning bylaw work is finished,” he said.

Currently, rules around short-term rentals are folded into Sechelt’s zoning bylaw, which staff have been rewriting. In February, staff said a draft of the zoning bylaw overhaul would be coming to council this spring.

Toth noted the housing crisis and said homes are being purchased and turned into commercial operations, “with little respect sometimes for our Official Community Plan, our zoning bylaws or generally neighbourly attitudes.”

He also singled out one of the more contentious aspects of the SCRD’s new rules – a ban on offsite operators.

“I don’t think we need to go for an outright ban on non-owner occupied short-term rentals … but I’m not personally sure yet what the right approach is,” he said.

“Let’s take some time to poll our tourism operators, homeowners, renters, community associations and everybody in between to find out what works and doesn’t work.”

Coun. Brenda Rowe said the timeline was “ambitious,” and that she was in favour of looking into the feasibility of moving ahead with a separate bylaw. She noted it was a hot button issue during the 2018 local government elections.

It took the SCRD about eight years to complete its zoning bylaw amendment.

Coun. Matt McLean agreed with Rowe. “Personally, I think we’re two years late,” he said. “It was a big election issue. We waited for the SCRD, I think we’ve waited too long.”

Council unanimously approved the motion.