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Kawartha Lakes takes next step in short-term rental property regulation

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The City of Kawartha Lakes has taken the next step in regulating short-term rental properties in the municipality.

At a Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, June 6th, councillors voted to “direct Staff to bring forward an amendment to the Fees By-Law” to establish an annual licensing fee, have a licensing by-law brought to the next council meeting for approval, allow the city treasurer to “establish a 2023 operating budget not to exceed $400,000, for the Municipal Law Enforcement and Licensing Division to fund staffing, equipment and resources to fund the implementation of a Short Term Rental (STR) Licensing Program,” create a “Short Term Rental Reserve” to receive any surpluses from the program and to have an update report be brought to council in early 2024 about the program.

Aaron Sloan, the City’s Manager of Municipal Law Enforcement and Licensing, described this program as a “soft rollout” and said this program will see “increased information sharing” between enforcement agencies.

Ward 7 Councillor Charlie McDonald stated short term rental properties are “a complex and growing problem.”

Councillor McDonald said the city’s by-law officers have agreed to work later than they have in the past, and the Ontario Provincial Police are open to working with the municipality to enforce issues regarding short-term rental properties. He noted the program’s goal is to be “fair but firm.”

“I believe this is a very good start.”

The City will also be working with a vendor to provide a 24-hour telephone complaint response regarding this issue. That number is not available as of yet, but the City has committed to advising the public when it is ready.

Councillors previously saw recommendations for a licensing program at a meeting on Tuesday, April 18th. However, at that time, after several concerns were brought up, Kawartha Lakes Council voted to create a task force to review the proposed by-law further.

“I think council made a good decision by deciding to set up a task force,” Mayor Doug Elmslie stated. “I think if we had tried to do this with full council [participation] at a Committee of the Whole meeting, it would’ve gone around and around and around in circles, and we might still be debating it.” He added this by-law is a starting point and “if we have to make adjustments to it, we will do so.”

Mr. Sloan said the five meetings with the task force were “very fruitful.”

“There’s been some great study, some great discussion in the municipality through council [and] the task force, with staff and with the public,” Mr. Sloan explained.

The City first started looking at issues and the possible regulation of these properties in 2017. The municipality held a public forum in 2018. Mr. Sloan said the municipality saw “an increase in short-term rental complaints” in 2022.

Short-term rental properties can include Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Since these decisions were made at a Committee of the Whole meeting, the decisions still need to be ratified at a council meeting later this month.

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