Vacation rentals under scrutiny by RDOS board

Vacation rentals under scrutiny by RDOS board

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Renting your house out for the summer can make you a small fortune, but if the neighbours complain, you may be in for a headache.

Last Thursday the regional district gave two readings to a bylaw that would regulate the use of private residences as short-term vacation rentals. The bylaw will now go to public hearings in Osoyoos, Okanagan Falls and Naramata later this summer.

Board chair Mark Pendergraft said they are providing a solution that will allow vacation rentals while protecting the rights of neighbouring property owners.

The bylaw would require homeowners to apply for a temporary use permit (TUP) before opening their doors to vacationers. The property would then be required to meet a number of conditions before the TUP would be granted. The cost of the first TUP is $700. A renewal fee (for up to an additional three years) is $350.

“Our focus will be on the properties that cause trouble,” said Donna Butler, manager of development services. “The majority of vacation rentals don’t.”

Vacation rentals are not a problem unless people complain about them, and some people have in Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos.

Complaints vary from noisy parties to traffic and parking overflow.

In rural Oliver, Area C director Allan Patton said people should be allowed to do what they want with their homes as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the neighbourhood.

“If they are a bother, we should come down hard on them . . . we have to be concerned about the neighbours and their complaints.”

Patton said vacation rentals in rural Oliver are not a big problem. He is aware of at least one on Sundial Road (Vaseux Lake) where there have been complaints.

Patton said this area is not on sewer, so they have to be cognizant of the impact on the septic fields.

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes said the vacation rental debate has not been brought up at the council table. He noted it is more of an issue in areas with lakefront homes, and is only brought to light when complaints arise.

“It is also hard to prove when someone may insist that they only let family use it (the home) when they are away.”

Pendergraft, the director for rural Osoyoos, said vacation rentals in Area A have not been a huge issue, but there have been some complaints about them.

“I personally feel that vacation rentals are fine as long as they are managed appropriately. For the most part that has been happening here, but not in all areas of the RDOS.”

Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells said he has never found anything positive about vacation rentals from a bylaw perspective. He noted that private homes rented out to vacationers tend to upset the neighbourhood.

“We have a lot of strata properties that have vacation rentals. They tend to polarize the strata councils, divide the residents, and turn into major brouhahas leading to legal settlements.”

Wells said most of the rentals don’t pay the two per cent hotel tax, which gives them an unfair advantage over Osoyoos’s commercial operators. “The warfare waged by some of these classic disputes is beyond belief. The disputes are nearly impossible to police and bylaw enforcement is very costly and again ineffective,” Wells said.

However, the mayor acknowledged there are some very good vacation rentals that run through pooled operations that are well managed and efficient.

“It would help if all purchasers understood all the ramifications as they begin their transactions,” Wells said.

The RDOS discussed amending the region’s official community plan and zoning bylaws to regulate vacation rentals through temporary use permits.

In January of 2012, the BC Supreme Court ruled against the regional district, concluding that it failed to show that a short-term vacation rental in Naramata was a breach of the 2008 Zoning Bylaw. Three months later the board started exploring temporary use permits to regulate vacation rentals.

In issuing a temporary use permit for a short-term vacation rental, the district may specify certain conditions, such as screening or fencing; storage and management of garbage; fire safety regulations; septic system care; pet control; water conservation measures; the provision of one parking space for each bedroom; a maximum accommodation of 10 people; and owner availability by phone.

With recent amendments to electoral area zoning bylaws, vacation rentals are not a permitted use in single-family dwellings in residential zones, said Butler.

“Any owner wishing to establish a vacation rental should apply for a vacation rental TUP, however, the regional district, like most local governments, enforces bylaws upon complaint.”

If there is a complaint, the district investigates the subject property and sends out letters to the owner requesting action to obtain compliance. After a period of time when the owner is not resolving issues, the district may issue a violation ticket, Butler said.

She noted the board is proposing to amend the fine to $500 – this will be brought forward for approval in a month or two.

Regional district planner Christopher Garrish said the board recognizes there is a demand for short-term vacation rentals. But he noted that some people find them disruptive and incompatible with the neighbourhood. In addition, they can diminish property values and create parking congestion.

On the other hand, many people have no problem with homeowners renting out their properties, saying they bring economic benefits to the South Okanagan.

Opinions on vacation rentals vary widely as heard during previous open houses in the South Okanagan.

Area D director Tom Siddon said he stands by his commitment to bring the practice of inappropriate vacation rentals under strict control. He noted this practice often leads to annoying abuses of residential peace and privacy.

Corinne Cheyne from Heritage Hills said there are not enough motels or hotels in Oliver and Penticton, so she supports vacation rentals.

She said if residents of Heritage Hills are really concerned about property values, they should harp on the FortisBC power line, not vacation rentals.

Brian Jackson from Okanagan Falls said he doesn’t support vacation rentals in single-family residential zones. But with proper management (regulations and enforcement), they may be able to blend with the neighbourhood.

Randy Doe from Okanagan Falls questioned why there is a sudden push to regulate a very low-key industry that has been operating for years with few or no problems.

“Does everything in the world have to be regulated by some form of government?”

John Beaupre, environmental health officer for Interior Health, said it is in the best interest of vacation rental owners to regulate the use of vacation rentals for the protection of people, property and the environment.

 

Lyonel Doherty

Oliver Chronicle

 

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