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Pincher Creek council votes on Airbnb bylaw

Friday, 21 October 2022. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Pincher Creek council votes on Airbnb bylaw

Pincher Creek council votes on Airbnb bylaw
By Sean Oliver
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


Earlier this year, Pincher Creek’s Municipal Development and Subdivision Authority received an application for a permit for a proposed short-term rental. The permit could not be granted because no regulations for short-term rentals existed in the town’s land use bylaw.

Council had a discussion on the issue during its August committee of the whole meeting and considered suggestions from the Oldman River Regional Services Commission. Administration was directed to prepare draft amendments to the land use bylaw that would help regulate the operations of short-term rental properties, popularized by online companies like Airbnb.

A few weeks later, a citizens delegation attended the Aug. 22 council meeting requesting council create a bylaw to curb issues and concerns stemming from Airbnbs, including noise and parking complaints, safety, increasing the price of long-term rental properties, and the effects transient tourists had on the overall quality of life for people in residential neighbourhoods.

Administration presented proposed amendments to the land use bylaw at the Oct. 11 regular council meeting, with council members deciding to pass first reading. 

The proposed regulations would distinguish between short-term rentals where the property owner lives on-site (Type 1) and those where the owner does not live at rental property (Type 2). 

Type 1 would be added to all residential zonings (R1 to R4) as a permitted use, meaning an owner would not require a development permit. Type 1 rentals would be advertised in local media but adjacent neighbours would not be directly notified. 

Type 2 rentals would only be given discretionary use in R1 to R3 zones and would require a development permit, which would notify the neighbours and require MDSA approval before proceeding. Type 2 rentals would also be prohibited in R4 properties (multi-family residential).

All short-term rentals would require a business licence. Temporary billeting arrangements would be exempt from the proposed regulations.

As part of the development permit process, Type 2 rentals would be required to state the number of rental units or bedrooms and the rental’s maximum occupancy. The developing authority would have the ability to limit the number of rooms, occupancy limit, and other conditions like parking to meet the individual needs of particular neighbourhoods.

The bylaw proposes to limit the number of Type 2 rentals to five per cent of the total number of single-detached dwellings in R1 zones. Permitting would occur on a first come, first served basis.

Camper trailers would not be allowed to be used as accommodation for the rental owner or renters. The exterior of the short-term rental would have to remain unaltered, though a four-square-foot window sign and one freestanding four-square-foot sign not more than five feet tall would be allowed. Signs also must not be directly illuminated.

Rental owners would be required to keep a guest list and provide personal contact information to the town. Online advertising would be prohibited until after a development permit and/or business licence was secured.

Owners would also be responsible for ensuring their property met the National Building Code — Alberta Edition, the Public Health Act, and the Housing Regulation, as well as the provincial tourist tax levy.

Having clear expectations for short-term rentals to meet established safety standards, said Coun. David Green, was an important need the proposed bylaw would fulfill.

“It puts short-term rentals under the legal magnifying glass — at least there will be code requirements if this goes forward,” he said. “Without code requirements, these things will continue, especially without the bylaw, and be random. And I think that’s sort of an unsafe situation. It needs some governance.”

Distinguishing between rentals where the owner was present versus absent was also an important aspect of the amendments, said Coun. Wayne Oliver.

“We need to be extremely mindful of the availability of houses in our community for long-term rentals,” he said. “I fully agree that if an entire house is used as an Airbnb, it takes it out of circulation for long-term rentals. 

“But of the Airbnbs I saw,” Oliver continued, “fully half of them were individuals renting out just one room of their house or a suite in the basement and they live up stairs, which provides a very nice supplemental income, say to a widow who lives by herself with limited means.”

Although the bylaw proposed a five per cent limit on Type 2 rentals in R1 zones, Coun. Mark Barber said he would prefer the limit dropped to one per cent.

“I guess an alternative to the whole thing is just to make sure that short-term rentals aren’t allowed in R1 designated areas,” he added. “That’s an opportunity too, right? Then we don't have to worry about it at all.”

An outright R1 ban, replied Mayor Don Anderberg, should only be considered after residents on either side of the issue had a chance to speak at the public hearing.

“The people that are actually doing Airbnbs and proposing to do Airbnbs have exactly the same right to speak as people that are not in favour or want regulation,” he said. “I err on the side of listening to what is brought forward at the hearing before moving any direction.” 

The public hearing for the proposed land use bylaw amendments will be held Monday, Nov. 14, 6 p.m. in council chambers.