Resident dreads summer as she faces short-term rentals

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BLUEWATER – The end of winter and the start of the beach season can be a source of excitement for some, but some Bluewater residents are dreading what the busy summer season will bring them.

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Short-term rentals in Bluewater, and particularly in the Bayfield area, have long been a controversial issue, attracting the attention of council and the municipality as they attempt to address the problems created by regularly rented properties and without regulation.

Christine Whittet, who has lived in Bayfield for over 20 years, lost her husband in 2021. She lives next to a short-term rental property with several pets, including three dogs, which she says struggle with the constant arrival of new faces. in the neighborhood.

“The thing that worries me the most is people are going to complain about my dogs,” she said. “Every week there are different people and different dogs… It’s the anticipation of the tension that will come back.

Bayfield is one of many communities across Canada that have seen the emergence of short-term rentals, with the popular Airbnb rental listing app listing 53 properties in the city for rent as of January 6. Whittet estimated there were at least five short-term rentals. term rental properties on its only street.

Pictured is a map of the properties listed on the popular Airbnb rental listings app, which listed 53 properties for rent as of January 6.
Pictured is a map of the properties listed on the popular Airbnb rental listings app, which listed 53 properties for rent as of January 6.

“I don’t want to live next to a Holiday Inn,” Whittet said. “It’s too hard on the dogs, and there is a lot more foot and car traffic.”

Some of the common concerns of residents involving short-term rentals include noise, parking and security issues, resulting from the increase in the number of cars parked in the area of ​​short-term rental properties and a lack of knowledge of local streets. In an effort to address some of these issues, councilors passed a motion last year to hire MEU Consulting to provide on-call services for complaints about short-term rentals, but the municipality is still investigating. on a way forward to address these issues. questions, with the idea of ​​a licensing system on the table.

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Conversations about how the municipality should approach short-term rental properties began in the summer of 2020 after Deputy Mayor Jim Fergusson brought forward a motion at a council meeting to further eliminate short-term rentals in Bluewater. This motion was ultimately not passed with a 6-3 vote, but these conversations have continued since then to include the possibilities for further enforcement of the regulations and the creation of a licensing system through of the municipality.

Speaking with The Times-Advance, Fergusson said residents of the community have been renting out their summer homes to relatives and friends for years, but said it was “totally different” from short rental properties. term listed in Bluewater.

“What we are seeing now are people from outside the county itself, and beyond that, buying recreational properties within the municipality and renting it out as a business,” he said. “This brings a whole other set of issues to the fore.”

“It does nothing to improve the community and the quality of life of the residents around it.

But as reflections continue at Bluewater on the way forward, Whittet said she was concerned about the upcoming summer season and its potential for disruption.

Whittet recalled an incident in 2021 with a guest at the property next to his where his son’s car was dented while parked in its driveway, resulting in more than $ 2,000 in damage. According to Whittet, the guest parked his car between his driveway and the driveway on the neighboring property and dented his son’s vehicle when they opened their doors.

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“There were a lot of other places she could have gone,” Whittet said. She said the guests appeared to intend to move their vehicle and deny causing the damage, but her son called the police and they were eventually able to contact those who manage the property, who paid the insurance deductible. of his son.

“It was just a horrible experience,” Whittet said.

Whittet said she was also concerned about the potential for COVID-19 to spread in the community when people from outside the local area traveled, often from large urban areas, to stay near the lakeside.

“I think I just feel like what I moved to, and what I expected from our move here, is slowly going away,” she said. “The main thing for me is that this is a residential area.

According to Fergusson, the municipality looked at what other municipalities have done to address similar concerns over short-term rentals as they consider how to move forward in Bluewater. But he said under Bluewater’s already existing zoning bylaws, the guesthouses are not a “permitted use” along the lake shores and in Bayfield.

“There is no doubt about it,” he said. “They are not allowed, so you have to go to the municipality and ask for either a zoning change or a zoning by-law amendment to allow this at your address. I still think it’s the right thing.

Fergusson said when these requests are made, neighbors are made aware of the owner’s intention and the zoning change, allowing them to comment and have their comments brought to council.

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“Otherwise, people open them up anywhere and advertise them on the Internet, and all of a sudden you live next to a motel.

Regarding a licensing system, Fergusson said such a system would allow the public to expect licensed properties to be monitored by the municipality, to be able to stay safe and to comply with fire prevention codes. fires.

“It gives that extra level of assurance to the people who do it and an extra level of assurance to the neighbors.”

Although he is not sure when a report outlining the way forward regarding the licensing and regulation of short-term rentals in Bluewater would be presented to council due to the recent departure of former Director of Development Services Mike Rolph, Fergusson said that report was supposed to come back to the board before the start of the 2022 summer season, with the aim of implementing those changes before the start of the season.

If a licensing system is introduced in the municipality, Whittet said she would like to see limits on the number of people allowed to stay in a short-term rental, as well as communication requirements with residents neighboring the properties. short term rental.

“I have no idea who the owners are here,” she said. “I couldn’t tell you who they were. “

“Communication would be the key,” she continued. “It would make things a lot easier. “

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