Editorial: New rules due for short-term rentals

Finally, there is a clear signal from the District of Sechelt that it’s ready to get serious about revisiting the rules for short-term rentals. The job is long overdue.

It’s troubling and ironic that during a summer when both the Sunshine Coast Regional District and the Town of Gibsons have been going through the last agonizing stages of crafting new STR regulations, the bulk of complaints we’re hearing about “party houses” and related nuisances are coming out of Sechelt.

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Last week it was Neil Edmunds of Sandy Hook, informing us that his “once bucolic neighborhood is being converted into an Airbnb destination of sorts,” with all the negative trimmings that entails.

This week it was Michael Siddall of East Porpoise Bay, whose “formerly quiet cul-de-sac” now has three houses hosting Airbnbs – “far too many in this one small section,” he wrote in a letter to Sechelt council, copied to Coast Reporter.

Mr. Siddell’s letter urges council to follow the example of Gibsons and other jurisdictions and draft a bylaw to effectively regulate short-term rentals. Two obvious ways, he says, would be requiring them to be owner-occupied and to put limits on the number of guests.

The district replied to Mr. Siddell on Monday, outlining current requirements for STRs but also advising him that the district is “now reviewing its bylaws and policies on short-term rentals” and expects a report will be presented to council this fall.

After doing a little digging, reporter Sean Eckford discovered that short-term rentals will be part of a much larger zoning bylaw review. Among the ideas being looked at will be limiting STRs to only one dwelling unit per property, setting a maximum of six guests and requiring the operator to be the principal resident of the property.

Since there are responsible owners who would be adversely affected by any of these changes, it won’t be a cakewalk for council to implement them. It certainly hasn’t been for the SCRD board or Gibsons council. But the tough decisions have to be made. Quality of life is being steadily eroded by “bad-faith STR owners,” as one resident described his neighbour this week. Tensions are rising.

It appears that the district is over the target, but bundling up short-term rentals as part of an omnibus zoning bylaw review could drag it out for years. This issue can’t wait years. The current summer of discontent is proof that it’s gone too far already.

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