A motion to freeze all new short-term rentals (STR) in Bracebridge was defeated by the town’s Planning and Development Committee after a split vote.
Four members voted for the motion, while four voted against it. Municipal rules dictate that when a vote is tied, the motion is considered defeated. However, at the latest town council meeting on Wednesday, a motion was passed to refer the topic back to General Committee for further discussion.
The eight members of committee were in agreement during their March 28 meeting that the town needs to have more control over STRs, but were at odds over what the best way forward is.
“It’s not just about noise,” Coun. Archie Buie said. “It’s about a lot of other issues we haven’t even started to discuss.”
Buie, along with Coun. Don Smith, Barb McMurray, and Mark Quemby voted against the motion.
He explained that the growing amount of STRs in the community affects the availability of rentals and housing. “We have to get moving,” he told committee, adding they’re lagging behind other parts of the province in taking better control of the situation.
Cheryl Kelley, Director of Planning and Development, noted that as of September 2021, there were 290 active STRs or imminent listings in Bracebridge.
Mayor Graydon Smith said that council has been adding resources to the town’s by-law department to allow them to be better prepared to handle complaints related to STRs. He pointed out that more resources have been put into the town’s by-law department, including an over $60,000 increase in budget from the previous year and adding multiple officers to work weekends. Michael Mayer was also recently promoted to his current position as Chief By-law Enforcement Officer.
Deputy Mayor Rick Maloney and Coun. Andrew Struthers and Steve Clement agreed that more control over STRs is needed by the town, but asked staff to go back to the drawing board and bring back a different idea.
A staff report submitted to committee last month recommended the freeze be received for information only and not be put into action. Staff wrote that more information is needed before moving forward, including public consultation, so the pros and cons of STRs can be weighed.
They wrote that freezing STRs, which could only be in place for one year initially, could end up being confusing for residents and town staff. It was also noted in the report that the freeze could cause issues for existing STRs. Staff added it’s likely “a number” will want to challenge the town’s enforcement of the issue, despite “most” residents being willing to follow the rules of the freeze.
Stephen Rettie, Chief Administrative Officer for the town, said they just don’t have the evidence to support freezing new STRs. “The evidence that we have is too anecdotal and we, therefore, would not be in a position to recommend it,” he told committee.
“We do understand that there are issues with respect to short-term rentals and we want to develop a program for council to address them,” he said.