Squamish-Lillooet district still grappling with short-term rentals

Regional district board members divided over right level of regulation and whether it should be enforced based on complaints

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) is still grappling with how to address short-term rentals across each of its vast and varied electoral areas.

At the SLRD's regular board meeting on Jan. 30, zoning amendment bylaws related to bed-and-breakfast operations sparked a lengthy discussion about nightly rentals in general.

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Though the bylaws in question were in relation to traditional bed and breakfasts (requiring them to rezone, and removing Temporary Use Permits [TUP] as a "tool" to allow short-term rentals), Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman said he felt the SLRD's approach was overregulated.

"I think if we try to regulate it right out, then we just drive it underground completely ... asking people to rezone to do a B&B, not allowing TUPs to do a short-term rental, is highly regulated," he said.

"My point is I feel like we've gone a little too far with this and that people are going to react strongly, and we need to break it down and get some more input."

Richman said he thinks enforcement should be complaint-based, that the SLRD should consider whether removing TUPs is the "right tool," and that the bylaws should be referred to stakeholders like the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Pemberton.

But SLRD chair and Area D director Tony Rainbow said his constituents—particularly those in Britannia Beach—are anxious to address the problem.

"I just recently attended their AGM, and they're really anxious for something. They would like to bring in capital punishment for people that do Airbnbs," Rainbow said, noting the problem in Britannia Beach is mostly centred around absentee owners from the Lower Mainland, rendering complaint-based enforcement ineffective.

"If you send a complaint in, by the time the complaint is received, the occurrence was two weeks ago, or last week, and then next weekend we've got the same thing," Rainbow said.

"So does it have to be a complaint every single time? ... Can we find a way of actually policing it? In theory, we've got the noise bylaw we can use, but it's not solving the problem."

What's needed in Area D may be different than what's needed in the rural parts of Area C, Rainbow concluded.

The SLRD has $65,000 in the budget to address illegal rentals—a figure Squamish Director Doug Race said was intended to be used on legal fees.

"It costs money to take on Supreme Court litigation, (and) at the moment, as far as I'm aware, that's the only way we can enforce a zoning bylaw, whether it's for Airbnb or any other zoning breach," Race said. "(We should go after) one or two problem people a year, and try to get people to understand they have to follow our bylaws ... these people are already breaching bylaws, so without enforcement, you're nowhere."

Following the discussion, the board passed a motion to amend its policy around short-term rental enforcement, removing a reference to proactive enforcement in favour of complaint-based enforcement.

The amended policy will be referred to chambers of commerce, tourism bodies and other relevant stakeholders before the bylaws are brought back to the board (likely at the March meeting).

Public hearings will be held in each electoral area as part of the process.

Stay up to date at www.slrd.bc.ca.

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