Council has a lot to consider when it comes to a policy for short-term vacation rentals in Cumberland.
The need for affordable rental housing as well as vacation rentals has pushed the village toward balancing out the need for both.
Staff presented council with a list of options at the May 9 meeting in order to get feedback for an amendment bylaw to the community’s zoning bylaw.
“It’s a bit of a puzzle — all the different pieces actually tie together,” senior planner Karin Albert told council. “If you like one, you will likely … like the other, but if you change one, it might impact the other.”
For the latest report, staff took feedback from the community into consideration and made some changes to recommendations for the plan.
Some of the main ideas included a requiring a principal resident to live on property with vacation rentals; limiting the number of bedrooms to three and the maximum number of guests to six; limiting vacation rentals to one dwelling unit per property; clarifying that a vacation rental can be located within a principal dwelling unit, accessory dwelling unit or a secondary suite on a property; changing the definition of vacation rentals to distinguish between the commercial use of a home as a vacation rental and home-sharing of a principal residence; and exploring options for operators to post a sign at the property.
One of the main sticking points for council during the discussion was a proposal for allowing those with existing rental properties to be grandfathered, even if the owner lives off-site.
“We can’t change the rules on people,” Albert told council, explaining grandfathering would amount to a legally non-conforming use at a property.
The grandfathering would continue even if the property is sold. Albert said only if an operator ceases to use the property for a six-month period would they then not be able to apply for a vacation rental later.
Council members expressed concern over current off-site owners continuing to operate by different rules. They said this ultimately would not help create more long-term rental housing.
“I feel like this is a loophole that I didn’t know about,” Coun. Sean Sullivan said.
He also said he wanted a yearly renewal for business licences. Staff responded that once someone applies and is approved, they only have to renew, not re-apply.
“As long as they pay for the renewal every year, they have that business licence,” acting chief administrative officer Michelle Mason said.
Staff added that the village only has 14 of these business licences at present, with no large increase in application numbers. However, council members suggested closing the loophole for any new applications to keep people from taking advantage now.
There were also questions about which areas of Cumberland should permit vacation rentals. Staff recommended keeping the current zoning in place and consider potential changes later during the official community plan (OCP) review process to avoid confusion.
Following the lengthy discussion, council passed a motion for staff to draft amendments to the zoning bylaw by incorporating the various recommendations, as well as amendments to the business licence bylaw to cover regulations for vacation rentals. As well, council wants a conversation about cash in lieu options for parking and sign details once the bylaw comes forward.