The short-term rental debate raged on in the municipal public hearing on Zoom Monday evening.
Amendments to the Land Use Bylaw would see short-term rental legalized across the island but with limitations in number of days a year rented out (120) and occupancy. Amendments to business licensing would set the STR fee at $300 and require a designated person to respond to any complaints within two hours. Amendments to the bylaw notice enforcement bylaw would set penalties at $150 for a first offence and $500 for every one thereafter.
Like councillors have been, community was split on whether the regulations were too harsh or not harsh enough.
Concerns included lack of enforceability (is bylaw working at 11 p.m. on a Friday), that the onus is on neighbours to report neighbours possibly causing community division and concerns for neighbourhood character with a revolving door of occupants. The potential for negative effects on already stressed rental housing stock concerned some though opinion was split on if there should be a lower number of days one can rent out accommodation or outright prohibition (as exists across much of the island now). Another suggestion was to limit the number of short-term rental licences issued.
On the other hand, several people advocated for removing the 120 day limitation entirely, arguing that the 120 days pushes rentals in the summer months and has the potential to limit tourism and tourism-related businesses. Jody Lorenz of Tourism Bowen Island suggested that instead of a blanket limitation, the muni could have commercial licence options for those who wish to rent out more than 120 days.
Public comments for the short-term rental bylaws are now closed and the bylaws pass to third reading.
During the regular council meeting:
Council passed first reading on an Official Community Plan amendment to designate the entire municipality as a temporary use permit issuing area. While the municipality has long issued TUPs, under the provincial Local Government Act the OCP must designate a TUP area, which Bowen hasn’t done. Council also requested the Advisory Planning Commission review the definition of “short-term” in the context of TUPs given recent IDLC controversy.