The Town of Oliver has put the temporary breaks on enforcing its zoning bylaw in relation to a short-term rental on Panorama Crescent.
On Monday, council discussed non- enforcement of the vacation rental known as Absolutely Suite B&B.
Corporate Officer Diane Vaykovich said the proprietor’s application description has been amended from B&B (bed and breakfast) to short-term rental. But a business licence cannot be issued under this new description since short-term rentals are not allowed under the bylaw because it is non-conforming.
“We have a number of bed and breakfasts who have business licences but are actually operating as a short-term rental, so they are really non-conforming,” Vaykovich said.
The Town plans to obtain public feedback on allowing vacation rentals as a permitted use in low-density residential zones. A report will then be presented to council outlining options on which zones may support these rentals.
Vaykovich said the Town received a complaint about Absolutely Suite regarding its non-compliance with the bylaw as it is being operated as a short-term (vacation) rental as opposed to a B&B. The complainant is asking the Town to revoke this business licence.
“The complainant also states that the business creates excessive traffic, noise and frequently blocks their driveway,” Vaykovich said, adding this is the first complaint the Town has received about this business. She also noted there are two businesses under one licence at this property, so the Town is asking them to separate the two, which they have done but listed one as a short-term rental. But the Town can’t issue a licence under this designation because the bylaw doesn’t allow it, she explained.
Proprietors Christine and Russell Work told the Chronicle they could not comment because they are unaware of the complaints.
In the meantime, council is forging ahead with establishing a new business licence bylaw, looking at how many bed and breakfast operations are operating as short-term rentals.
Chief Administrative Officer Cathy Cowan said council may wish to delay enforcement due to the probability of the business in question already having bookings.
But a complainant who sent a letter to the Chronicle stated that the proprietor in this case was in contravention of the bylaw because they were given a commercial licence to operate a vacation rental in a residential zone.
Why were these licences granted without public notification or consultation? the complainant asked.
“These people were given preferential treatment by the Town to the detriment of all the honest B&B owners and the thousands of unwitting residents.”
But Roger Hall responded to the Chronicle by asking why these necessary short-term rentals are being harassed?
“There are several homes in the area that accommodate many more people than a vacation rental suit would ever include.”
Hall also asked why a fee is charged to these suites when B&Bs are exempt from this financial liability?
In another comment, a resident said it seems that Town council is simply on a “money grab.”
The resident added that the town already has bylaws to govern noise, litter and parking.
“Let’s go, council, we already pay more than enough property tax.”
Councillor Dave Mattes said the Town has no zone that allows short-term rentals but there is a zone that allows vacation rentals.
“I’m not sure we should issue the business licence at all until the applicant returns and the business opens for the season.”
Mattes said the operation does indeed qualify as a bed and breakfast, so he suggested the owner change the application back to a B&B to comply with the bylaw.
Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger said there are other people in town in the same predicament.
“I’m wondering why we’re just specifically addressing one unit when there’s probably a dozen other places that are facing the same thing.”
Schwartzenberger said the other issue is this property having two businesses.
“I don’t think we really want to have a shopping mall in a single family dwelling.”
Therefore, he said there should be some consideration on how many businesses a person can have in a residential neighbourhood.
Mattes said a B&B is really a short-term rental. He went on to say that perhaps the Town should be physically checking these suites to ensure they are what they’re supposed to be (under the corresponding licence). For example, he said a mother-in-law suite (because it has a kitchen) cannot be used as a B&B, but it can be used as a short-term rental.
Cowan clarified by saying you cannot use a suite as a short-term rental in any of the Town’s residential zones. “It’s not allowed under our zoning bylaw.”
Contract planner Chris Garrish said the way the bylaw is structured, it’s not permitted in residential zones. But it is permitted in the resort zones, he noted.
Councillor Petra Veintimilla moved staff’s recommendation to put the enforcement on hold until the Town sorts out the rules.
“Ya, it’s definitely a dog’s breakfast,” said Mayor Martin Johansen.