Note: Due to time constraints, this article is a brief that doesn’t have as many details ad we’d like, even though it’s not that brief. Check the links for sources and more numbers and details.
The City of Revelstoke will hold a public hearing for its proposed new short-term rental bylaw on Feb. 22, 2022. Exact details TBA.
On Jan. 25, Revelstoke city council voted 4-2 to proceed to the public hearing.
The new short-term rentals plan comes after the previous plan was abandoned in late 2021.
The new plan allows short-term rentals in several specific areas, including Mackenzie Village, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, downtown, and a new area in Upper Arrow Heights near Camozzi Road and Nichol Road. It would also allow short-term rentals in commercially zoned areas including downtown, with some variation depending on the type of commercial zoning.
Owners would be able to rent out either suite in a building or an individual home.
The city is proposing several other changes. It would remove the 120-day restriction, increase the bedroom limit from three to four, and increase the maximum occupancy to eight people.
The new system would allow a total of 680 vacation rentals in the city, including existing vacation rentals within the proposed new zone. The total does not include existing vacation rentals outside of the zone.
Get the details
The city has abandoned its previous plan and is moving forward with a new one. To get up to speed with the new plan you should read:
Watch the video
There is quite a lot of discussion at the Jan. 25 meeting. Watch it here. They get bogged down in procedure at the start but it picks up after that.
Coun. Jackie Rhind brought a list of questions about the plan and led a lot of dialogue in the meeting, speaking forcefully and appearing exasperated a couple times.
She said she didn’t feel the new plan fit the “guiding principles” of the process. Granting some and not other properties status created “inequity” by adding value to expensive properties. She said other municipalities have policies that have flexibility and detail that accommodate many different kind of neighbourhood rental uses, including just for one month per year.
In the end, many of the changes she pushed for would come during subsequent processes such as to business licensing. She didn’t support the plan and voted against it.
Coun. Rob Elliott felt the plan was a government intervention in the real estate market and that more housing could be secured by focusing in other areas like development. He voted against the main bylaw.
A city staff report says changes to its ticketing and business licence bylaws would be required, as well as a review of “enforcement strategies.”
The strategy is zone based, and it doesn’t seem likely to lead to inclusion of satellite properties.
The plan and discussion includes changes to business licensing but the details are to be worked out later. Part of the meeting included giving direction on them, but the details come later.
There was mention of adding advertising regulations into the business licensing bylaw when it is developed. Other municipalities have successfully used laws that prevent the act of advertising a property, such as on AirBnB, to regulate short-term rentals that do not have zoning or licensing to do so. In short, they issue a ticket for advertising without a permit, which is a desktop exercise easily provable in court. The current system is difficult to enforce and has lead to resource-sapping legal challenges. For several years the city has mentioned its use of a contractor that tracks vacation rentals using digital tools.
Enforcement plans haven’t featured prominently in recent plans and have been not that clear.
Analysis: 4-2 split
If you watch the meeting, there’s a clear divide on the issue of short-term rental being restricted by neighbourhood.
Coun. Jackie Rhind and Coun. Rob Elliott voted and spoke against, while the four-person majority: Mayor Gary Sulz, Coun. Mike Brooks-Hill, Coun. Nicole Cherlet, and Coun. Tim Palmer wanted to go ahead despite acknowledging there would be significant opposition.
Councillors Elliott and Rhind have signaled at the past two meetings that they favour an approach that will permit them in all residential areas.
The grey market short-term rental business is a significant local industry with many legal businesses serving them, such as cleaners, property managers, developers and builders. Rhind spoke forcefully at times and predicted a “disaster” and “pushback” at a public hearing without changes.
The fact that the proposed plan doesn’t provide a path forward for many existing short-term rentals in other neighbourhoods was acknowledged as an issue that would cause concern.
However, a majority, the mayor and the remaining three councillors, wanted to get feedback at a public hearing and go from there.
Technically speaking, a public hearing is meant to come after an engagement process, but city staff and many council members have said they’ve already had that through studies, engagement and public hearings in 2021, and want to go ahead and engage through the public hearing.
Revelstoke has a reputation for animated public hearings. By their nature, public hearings often attract voices from those who stand to lose from a proposed change. Revelstoke has traditionally had a vocal public hearing culture.
The city’s Development Services department has been without an active director since late last year and current CAO James Thackray’s signatures appear on the development services documents instead.
With an election in the fall, council is facing time pressure to complete major policy objectives and acknowledged that in several comments at the Jan. 25 meeting. If the city moves ahead as proposed, the final details of ticketing and business licensing could overlap the fall election.
Final analysis: We’ll recycle a question we asked on the short-term rentals issue in the fall when a different policy was proposed: It’s a change, but is it the right change for Revelstoke?