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Kawartha Lakes sets up a task force to discuss a short term rental bylaw

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The City of Kawartha Lakes is moving forward with a licensing program for short-term rental (STR) properties, but they have yet to decide what the details of that program will be.

At a couple of meetings on Tuesday, April 18th, councillors discussed a report from Aaron Sloan, the City of Kawartha Lakes' Manager of Municipal Law Enforcement and Licensing, which recommended proceeding with a "soft start" for a licensing program. And to update bylaws for the implementation of this program. The report also recommended a budget of $400,000 be set up for municipal law enforcement to "fund staffing, equipment and resources to [support] the implementation of a Short-Term Rental (STR) licensing program."

A number of concerns with the report were brought up by councillors at the morning Committee of the Whole meeting.

Ward 7 Councillor Charlie McDonald felt focusing on education as an enforcement strategy in the first year was not the right path for this bylaw.

"We've had five years to educate people," he said. Adding, just creating a bylaw will not fix the situation.

"We know where the problems are today. But bylaw officers will not go into a crowded or a noisy, or maybe a dangerous situation, and they will call the police," Councillor McDonald said. "We know they aren't going to go, and even if they do go, they aren't going to go in. They are going to wait for the police, which is probably a good safety feature for sure. The police services do collect location-based data, but they do not specifically associate the data with STRs."

Ward 2 Councillor Pat Warren said she thought all councillors could benefit from having more time to discuss this issue.

"I feel this is rushed. There are many facets to this bylaw. There are things I like; there are things I don't like. And I think that will take a lot of time to debate."

Ward 3 Councillor Mike Perry discussed the City's need to tailor the bylaw to fit the issue.

"I think we have a lot of concerns as councillors," he stated. "We have the same report before us as we did two weeks ago despite comments from council, and things need to be considered."

The report had been deferred during a Committee of the Whole meeting in early April due to a hefty agenda.

Councillor McDonald was going to make a motion to defer the report to another Committee of the Whole meeting.

However, at the afternoon council meeting, Mayor Doug Elmslie expressed he felt proceeding with another Committee of the Whole meeting would not solve anything.

"My desire not to have another Committee of the Whole meeting to talk about this is that it becomes a public meeting. Then we get deputations, etcetera, etcetera. And we will still be wrangling the same thing we did this morning. It will be no different."

Instead, he recommended the council approve moving forward with a licensing bylaw; and to have a task force set up with four council members to "work with staff to review and make recommendations to Council on a Short Term Licensing Program" by the end of the second quarter of this year. That motion was moved by Councillor McDonald and passed. The four councillors who will sit on that task force are Ward 8 Councillor Tracy Richardson, Councillor McDonald, Councillor Perry and Ward 4 Councillor Dan Joyce.

Short-term rental properties can include Airbnbs and VRBOs (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

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