Short-term rentals debate divides town outside of Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba

A debate over short-term home rentals divides a Manitoba municipality that borders Riding Mountain National Park – some residents think rentals are good for tourism, others want the practice regulated or banned altogether.

The warden of the Municipality of Harrison Park, which includes Onanole, Newdale and Sandy Lake, says there are residents who are strongly against short-term rentals, including Airbnbs, and others who are enthusiastic about the idea that tourists are taken to the region.

Jason Potter believes in strengthening the region’s economy, but believes there must be clear rules for the owners of the municipality’s 90-plus locations and their visitors.

“The town of Onanole, our whole economy is driven by tourism. And I think a lot of people are very sensitive to that because [… ] the main engine of our economy is tourism, ”he said.

“I’m a big supporter of small businesses and entrepreneurs, and I think we need to come up with some sort of draft regulation with rules and restrictions, obviously with regard to [short-term rentals], but a complete ban, I am not in favor of. “

Some of the Airbnbs located a short drive from Riding Mountain National Park. (Airbnb)

Next month, the debate over short-term rentals will come to a head when the board. Craig Atkinson will bring forward a motion to ban them in the municipality at the last council meeting in 2021.

“I don’t think residents expect hotels to be next to them in residential areas and I think there is […] makes it difficult for families to find accommodation here, ”Atkinson told CBC News.

A view of Clear Lake from the Wasagaming townsite. Short-term rental units are popping up all around Riding Mountain National Park. (Riley Laychuk / CBC)

Onanole owner Ralph Clark wants short-term rental activity to be reduced in residential areas because rental properties are businesses that can be open 24/7.

He bought his property in 2005 and started living there full time just over three years ago. Around this time, someone bought the property in front of them and operates it as an Airbnb.

This last summer has been “a summer that I don’t wish on anyone,” he says, and makes him consider his future in the city.

“Over the past summer, over a period of approximately 11 weeks, we had to contact our neighbors seven times. We called the RCMP twice and there were about a couple of times we tried to deal with the situation on our own, ”Clark said.

These situations have ranged from noise complaints to trespassers on his property.

Short-term rentals drive economic growth

On the other end of the spectrum, Tyler Plante is all about short term rentals. He owns a property called Bears Den in Onanole, which operates like an Airbnb.

Plante says he understands how sad it can be for locals who have had “a little slice of heaven” for many years and are experiencing change.

Tyler Plante says Airbnb properties and short-term rentals like him are helping to boost the local economy. (Bears Den / Airbnb)

“It’s disheartening, but it’s part of life,” he said.

“For communities to continue to grow, there has to be economic growth and that flows in this area of ​​tourism. And the more tourists you can bring in, […] so much the better for businesses. “

The real estate agent thinks the municipality should impose a tax on short-term rental housing and develop more appropriate rules to ensure that it is not the “west end of Airbnbs”.

“You have to respect that neighbor and make sure everyone coexists appropriately, because otherwise it’s just going to turn a beautiful place into something messy, and nobody wants that,” said Plante.

“We just need to find common ground, and that’s where we need to trust our board.”

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