By David F. Rooney
Vacation rentals are a hot topic in Revelstoke — so hot, in fact, that Council wants to hear what residents have to say about it.
City Hall is asking residents to send it their comments and thoughts on the subject of vacation rentals by July 20. The City also wants to begin a so-called “active enforcement program” (unlike the existing complaint-driven bylaw enforcement program) to crackdown on illegal vacation rentals, of which there may be scores with 300 bedrooms total hidden within Revelstoke’s neighbourhoods.
“Vacation rentals continue to generate significant amounts of discussion in the community,” said a recent report to City Council from Development Services Manager Dean Strachan. “In order to ensure Council hears from as many people in the community as possible it is recommended that community consultation be undertaken.
“The estimates of the number of vacation rentals actively operating in the community was at approximately 60 in September 2015, it is estimated that the number increased to approximately 100 within the City during the winter season. The estimated number of illegal vacation rental bedrooms within the city is approximately 300.”
This is a major concern for local hoteliers, businesses that are trying to hire staff and anyone seeking rental residential accommodation for themselves and their families.
“The Chamber and the Revelstoke Accommodation Association are very concerned about this issue,” RAA spokesman Thom Tischik said Thursday, July 7.
“At RAA we want to see everyone on a level playing field. The other major concern is the loss of rental properties as owners recognize that they can make substantially more money with vacation rentals than regular rental properties.”
While businesses are not required to provide accommodation to staff some already do that and there is growing talk about the possible necessity of doing so in order to attract and hire staff, particularly those coming from out of town.
None of this is to say that vacation rentals are unwanted in Revelstoke.
“Vacation rentals are a part of our growth as a tourism destination community and we want to see them contribute to the development of our city, ensure they are properly controlled and to be good neighbours in our community,” Mayor Martk McKee said in a statement on this issue.
Just to be clear, here is the City’s definition of vacation rentals:
“The licensed use of a residential single-detached dwelling or a licensed secondary suite as temporary lodging (less than 30 days at any one time) for paying guests. Vacation rental use is restricted to a total of no more than 120 days per calendar year. The maximum occupancy shall be calculated based on two adults per licensed bedroom with a total maximum occupancy of eight people. No signage shall be permitted. The property owners are to provide a contact number for themselves or a representative located within the City and available 24 hours a day. The contact number is to appear on the Business License posted in the Vacation Rental Unit.”
Vacation rental operators require a business licence as well as a $200 vacation rental licence. They are also required to pay a fee of $5 per licenced bedroom and provide one parking stall per bedroom.
What disturbs Council and the municipal government are the indications that there is a growing number of illegal vacation rental operations. RAA and the Chamber are also concerned that vacation rentals do not contribute to the funding for marketing of our community, but nonetheless benefit from those efforts. City staff and RAA are expected to develop a way for vacation rentals to begin contributing to community marketing.
Strachan recommended that City staff research the percentage of the accommodation market that is seeking to become vacation rentals and report back to Council with a recommendation on the maximum number of vacation rentals that should be permitted in the community.
“Staff would reach out to the Chamber of Commerce, RAA, regional and provincial tourism agencies as a part of developing the recommendation,” he suggested. “It would be recommended that the maximum be a percentage of the existing accommodation in the community and reflective of the percentage of market demand. It would further be recommended that this maximum be established as a policy and that the policy be reviewed annually.
“The establishment of a maximum would likely become an incentive unto itself for legalization as owners realize they could at some point not have the option to legalize as the maximum has been reached.”
The problems posed by vacation rentals are not limited to Revelstoke. Communities all over the continent are grappling with ways to regulate, license and tax vacation rentals.
“The province is reviewing this topic and it is hoped new legislation will be introduced in the near future that will begin to ensure vacation rentals are more equally contributing in comparison with commercial accommodation,” Strachan said. Staff would continue to monitor the activity around Vacation Rentals.
If you want to have your say on this issue please send a submission via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can mail a letter to:
City of Revelstoke,
PO Box 170,
Or drop it off at:
216 Mackenzie Avenue