Pemberton council looks at ‘blended approach’ to short-term rentals

Public feedback still welcome on issue, officials say

Much to council’s surprise, Pembertonians seem to be split on whether short-term accommodations should be allowed in the village, said mayor Mike Richman.

The Village of Pemberton conducted outreach and surveys in recent months to determine how locals would like officials to move forward with regulations and “it was a 50/50 split as to whether we should prohibit it or expand it,” Richman said. “There were equal comments in terms of the negative impacts and then there were comments about the positive impacts to tourism and the business community as well.”

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That mixed response was what helped inform a proposed “blended approach” to regulation that staff presented to council during a Committee of the Whole meeting last Tuesday (Sept. 12).

“The work done by staff up to this point brought us to a place where council looked and went, ‘this is a reality. Pemberton is not going to change the shared economy that’s going on across the globe… Let’s recognize that this type of short-term rental is a new form of travel and it’s not going anywhere.’ Having said that, council recognizes that there are a lot of impacts — obviously to the long-term rental market… (and) we don’t want to allow it to grow to a point where it’s really impacting lodges and hotels and accommodation providers.”

To that end, a new draft zoning bylaw would allow for short-term rentals, with certain conditions. Those conditions include: allowing short-term rentals in areas zoned for bed and breakfasts and only in principal dwellings (with the possibility of the owner receiving a Temporary Use Permit for secondary suites). The short-term rentals would only be able host two guests per bedroom and eight per house. They would also have to offer one off-street parking space per bedroom.

Owners would have to pay an infraction deposit of $2,500 — to be used in case there’s a complaint launched — as well as the same utility rate as bed and breakfasts.

On top of that, owners would have to obtain a business license that would be more expensive than a regular business license — with a limited number of those issued each year on a first-come, first-serve basis, Richman said.

“Looking at a higher business license rate and having inspections done, you’ll have to be a motivated renter to make it happen,” he added. “That’s what we want; people who are committed to doing it right and hopefully that keeps the numbers to a reasonable level.”

Council will also have to consider how it will enforce new regulations. “It’s not a cookie cutter thing by any means,” he said. “That’s why I feel full deregulation is not going to be the route. It just drives it underground and makes it harder to enforce, as opposed to putting regulations around it… (It also) allows us to bring in a bit of money, which will provide a bit of resources for the enforcement side of things.”

Richman stressed there are still details to be worked out — for example, how to implement the business license cap to ensure there aren’t too many short-term accommodations in each neighbourhood — and, to that end, there’s still room for public feedback.

The draft zoning bylaw will be reviewed by staff and presented to the community in an open house later in the fall.

“There are still some decisions to be made,” Richman said. “We’ll be looking to, in a year, review this and make sure we’ve gone down the right path. When you create these policies, you have to keep an open mind to make changes down the road.”

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