Short-Term Rental Regulation Process
Chief By-law Enforcement Officer, Rob Kennedy, presented to Committee the process that his department hopes to follow while developing a short-term rental by-law for the Township including a licensing program as decided by Council. Mr. Kennedy explained the plan they laid out includes making a presentation to Committee on “variable sections” included in some licensing by-laws such as number of days one can rent per year and how many nights can be rented per stay. Mr. Kennedy suggested that a Special Council meeting be held where the presentation can be given and receive input from Council on the “variable sections” of the proposed by-law, as well as discussing current statistics the Township has on current short-term rentals. Input will also be received on what other municipalities are doing with short-term rentals. Following that discussion, an Engage Muskoka webpage will be created with information on the by-law, there will be public consultation, an Open House will be held, a public meeting will be held where the draft by-law will be presented and allow for further public comments, if required an amended draft would return to Committee or go directly to Council and then staff will begin working on the implementation of the by-law.
Following Mr. Kennedy’s presentation, a question was asked as to when Council had embraced a licensing by-law? Councillors Zavitz, Roberts and Moyer Kent all voiced concerns with this wording as they felt the Township was investigating a short-term rental by-law, learning the pros and cons of a by-law, or simply evaluating a by-law. Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, reviewed for Committee the steps that the Township has taken since 2016 when Council heard presentations from planners and lawyers on the subject and set up a working group to discuss a licensing by-law. Staff were asked to proceed with developing a short-term rental by-law but ultimately Council approved a Code of Conduct in approximately 2018. Although the short-term rental by-law was written it was “shelved”. During the summer of 2022 a resolution was passed asking staff to return with the licensing by-law for consideration. Mr. Pink explained that this process is starting with a staff report on how they wish to proceed as they believe this is a complex and contentious issue. Mr. Pink was clear that Council has not made a decision or voted to pass a licensing by-law to date but stated that ultimately licensing is the only option that will work in the Township to regulate short-term rentals.
CAO Hammond further stated that last term staff were asked to update old by-laws. Instead of simply presenting Committee with a drafted by-law, staff decided to come forward with the process they will follow while drafting the by-law. Furthermore, if Committee does not wish to proceed, they have the ability to stop the process. Mr. Pink added it would be best to hold a Special Planning Committee meeting for this topic.
Councillor Nishikawa raised points she had learned at the ROMA Conference in January regarding short term rental by-laws. It was suggested that a short-term rental by-law should not be under the Planning Department as it is not a planning issue, that the by-law should be self-funding and that it is a long process to develop a short-term rental by-law. Councillor Nishikawa suggested that a small committee be formed, perhaps with one Councillor per ward, to research the by-law and report back to the Planning Committee with interim reports. CAO Hammond said that a smaller committee was possible, but staff had felt that all Councillors would want to be involved.
Having heard the explanations, Committee members were supportive of the process. A resolution was read and carried to endorse the process to consider and develop regulations for short term rentals.
ED Note: The MRA realizes that in the above report it says a “Special Council meeting” and a “Special Planning Committee meeting” which are not the same, but that is what was said.