There will be no short-term rental (STR) freeze in Bracebridge after a nearly two-hour debate at the town’s latest council meeting.
A mandatory registry for the currently existing STRs will be made to collect data for future changes to the town’s official plan, any future zoning by-law amendments, and a future short-term rental licensing program.
A consultant will also be brought in to alleviate pressure on staff and will be tasked with developing a short-term rental program by the end of 2022. A request for proposal process will be undertaken by the town, but no timeline was given for when that might start.
The amended motion was unanimously passed.
This is the second time in as many months that town council has debated the issue.
While General Committee had approved using the interim control by-law during its April 19 meeting, it went against what staff recommended. In the report submitted to committee, they wrote they believe more data is needed, notably public consultation, to better understand STR-related issues.
Cheryl Kelley, the town’s Director of Planning and Development, told council that, currently, she doesn’t believe they have enough data to bring a “conclusive and comprehensive” idea forward.
During council, there were six delegations that hoped to sway council to vote against what they decided a few weeks ago at committee.
Catharine Thompson, who owns Cozy Cottages of Muskoka, explained that her business and others aren’t just renting cottages out to people who have the sole intention of “hanging out” in Muskoka. Thompson gave the example of a woman with two kids who rents a cottage from her because she is trying to get away from her abusive husband. Thompson said another person is renting from her because he just got a job in the area and wants to feel out the area, and job, before they decide to stay here long-term.
During April 19’s committee meeting, Deputy Mayor Rick Maloney noted that the town has received 19 complaints about the roughly 300 STRs, but Coun. Mark Quemby pushed back saying that number should be multiplied by 50.
“There are many people that are annoyed or upset but not willing to complain for fear of retribution from their neighbours,” Quemby said.
“At the end of the day this is about behaviour,” Maloney told council during Wednesday’s meeting. He said that it’s a “small percentage” of STRs that do cause issues, adding that ones that follow the rules shouldn’t be punished.