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Area H director has no appetite for handcuffing vacation rentals

RDOS’s Bob Coyne says local zoning bylaws are likely the way to go
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“Who wouldn’t want to go and spend a weekend at a million dollar place in Tulameen?” - Photo contributed

While nearly ever city, municipality and district in the province is grappling with the province’s new legislation on short-term rentals, the issues for Area H of the Regional District of South Okanagan (RDOS) are unique.

That’s according to RDOS board director Bob Coyne, who calls the new law “very, very controversial.”

Bill 35 gives local governments under a 10,000 population the ability to choose whether or not to “opt-in” to policies that would require the owners of short-term rental homes to primarily live on those properties, as a means of freeing up much-needed housing.

For Area H, which encompasses the small communities of Tulameen, Coalmont, Eastgate, Missezula Lake and Allison Lake, the issues with short-term rentals are a lack of regulation and complaints from neighbours about visitors.

Coyne noted there is only one permitted vacation rental in the entire area, and that is in Eastgate.

Opting into strangle-holding rentals is not going to solve the problem here, he said, stressing that local zoning bylaws are likely the way to go.

The largest of the communities that could be impacted is Tulameen. A provincial government site puts the year-round population at 50, while it can swell to 2,000 in the summer months.

Like in the rest of the district, the summer rentals are unregulated.

“These homes, they are vacation places, so nobody is going to live there most of the year.”

In many cases, vacation homeowners rent their properties at peak times, while blocking off some weeks for their own use, said Coyne.

“Who wouldn’t want to go and spend a weekend at a million dollar place in Tulameen?”

Recently in Missezula Lake, an application for a full-time rental vacation property was turned down, after 70 letters were received from other homeowners who objected, Coyne added.

He said complaints ranged from loud parties, vandalism, parking issues, and visitors sleeping on other people’s picnic tables, trampling trees, leaving garbage behind, and using too much water.

RDOS directors are meeting Feb. 29 for an education session on the legislation and to explore options for the different areas in the region.

RDOS staff have been recommending opting out of the regulations for at least 2024, to complete their vacation rental review and housing report for the year first to have a better idea of the situation before making the decision.

When it comes to a vote on the decision of whether to opt-in or not, only the directors for the rural electoral areas, not the directors representing local municipalities, will be able to cast a vote.

If the board does end up voting to opt-in, either as a whole or for specific areas, then the regulations would take effect as of November 2024.

Coyne said the province is also giving local governments the option of requiring business licenses for vacation rental property owners.

“It’s just a huge can of worms and it’s going to take years to sort this out.”

Within the Town of Princeton there is no appetite to handcuff vacation rentals, according to Mayor Spencer Coyne. “We only have three or four and that’s not going to do anything to alleviate the housing shortage,” he told the Spotlight.

“The housing shortage in Princeton is due to the lack of new construction for the past 30-plus years. We lack density and we lack new construction. There has been a lack of vision.”

– With files from Monique Tamminga

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Andrea DeMeer

About the Author: Andrea DeMeer

Andrea is the publisher of the Similkameen Spotlight.
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