Whether you love or hate them, new rules for short-term rentals (STR) within the Coast’s two municipalities will be up for debate this spring. Both Gibsons and Sechelt engaged consulting firms to explore options for updating STR regulations. Each council asked for a focus on protecting long-term housing supply and keeping that use of residential properties appropriate for their neighbourhoods.
At a committee meeting on Feb. 15, GIbsons council members agreed with a proposal that could ban STRs on properties that do not include a long-term residence, except for a limited number within its Harbour Plan area. Those changes could be coming as early as this August.
That recommendation, which was opposed by Coun. Stafford Lumley, is slated to be considered by council at its next meeting on March 1. “I think it is too restrictive, too far down the scale for me,” Lumley stated when asked to explain his opposition by Coun. Aleria Ladwig.
The bylaws would require a public hearing and based on the proposed timing, the earliest date for that would be mid-March.
Director of Planning Lesley-Anne Staats outlined a process to the committee that focused on having public hearings completed and a bylaw ready for adoption by May 1. After adoption, staff's recommendation is to launch a three month “grace period” where they would work with STR operators to help them come into compliance with the new rules. That would create a shift for the STR market and operators in the town during one of their busiest booking months. Staats defended imposing the changes, noting that STRs are not a permitted use of residential properties under Gibsons bylaws.
The proposed regulation scheme would have council consider two-year temporary use permits for a yet to be determined number of unhosted STRs in units that are not primary residences around the lower Gibsons waterfront area. She said this was being recommended given the lack of commercial tourist accommodation in that part of the community. With proposals like The George and a six-room boutique hotel on the Stonehurst property coming forward, she noted that supply may increase in the near future.
In addition, Gibsons housing-centric classification system for STRs would allow town residents, owners and tenants, to short-term rent their principal dwelling, be that a single-family home, townhouse, secondary suite, apartment, or other type of accommodation. It would allow renting of rooms within a primary residence or the entire home when the resident is temporarily away.
On Feb. 11 Sechelt launched a “Have Your Say” process seeking public input on potential regulation of STRs through its social media channels. Sechelt began regulating STRs through business licensing in 2005. It has been asking the public for its views on updating those rules in 2022 as part of its zoning bylaw review process. The focus has now shifted to making changes within the business licensing bylaw and to phase those in starting with the annual licence renewal process in January 2023, according to an email to Coast Reporter from municipal planning staff. It was noted that a final decision on that timing would be up to council.
Sechelt’s consultation process is scheduled to run through mid-March, with an online survey and public meetings planned between Feb. 23 and March 1. Those interested in attending a meeting need to register in advance at sechelt.ca.
In a committee meeting held in December 2021, Sechelt council supported going to the public with a proposal that would see STRs on properties that are not also a primary residence classified as “commercial." Zoning changes for those parcels are not part of that proposal. Council members recommended that the number of these operations be limited, with their opening suggestion on the maximum number allowed at 30.
Similar to the approach in Gibsons, operations located on properties occupied by a long-term resident, an owner or renter, would be allowed to rent up to three sleeping rooms to short-term tenants with new STR regulations replacing Sechelt’s current “bed and breakfast” licensing requirements. Short-term rental of entire homes would also be allowed, on occasion, such as when the primary resident is away on vacation.
For properties that have a secondary residence, such as a self-contained suite or cottage, the proposal is to allow rental of that unit as an STR as long as the primary resident is present during the period that the unit is rented. No restrictions on the number of short term rental days allowed on resident-occupied properties are part of the proposal.
The SCRD finalized its STR regulation changes in 2020. Those require an operator reside onsite or be available when an STR is rented to guests.