By Steve Hubrecht
The issue of short-term rentals (STR) continues to be a hot topic in the Columbia Valley. A local resident pressed Invermere council for a timeline on its efforts to deal with the issue, during the most recent Invermere council meeting.
Invermere resident, John Rouse, queried district councillors and staff at the Tuesday, Oct. 26 council meeting, about their recently concluded survey on short-term rentals, and asked what the district’s next steps on the issue would be and when they would happen. Rouse noted that this past summer the village of Radium Hot Springs had adopted a bylaw dealing with STRs, and that also this summer the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) had conducted a similar survey as the district’s, and has outlined that RDEK staff are hoping to have recommendations before the RDEK board sometime this coming spring.
“What’s the timeline?” Rouse asked.
Invermere chief administrative officer, Andrew Young, responded that the district had received 617 completed surveys from district residents on the STR issue, which he and other council members pointed out was quite a high number, given the district’s population of slightly less than 3,000 people. Young told Rouse that the district has not yet collated the survey data, “but we will be turning our attention to that shortly.” He said the district is still in the early stages of dealing with the STR issue, that it intends to parallel the RDEK’s process, and that the timing of next steps depends on the work of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing and decisions by council.
Invermere councillor, Gerry Taft, expressed concern about which of those two bodies should be making decisions on STRs and affordable housing, saying that since attainable housing, and by extension the STR issue, “is one of the most important issues in the district…information needs to come to council first” before going to the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing.
Rouse pressed again for more specific time estimates, suggesting that a work plan with delineated milestones “would be prudent”, adding “we do not want to be waiting another year. These projects needs to move along…(residents) want to know how long it’s going to be to get to the end of the road, and which road we’re going to take to get there.”
To have some kinds of bylaw, it’s going to be more than a year, I can guarantee it,” said Taft in response. Taft noted that Radium took nearly two years to get its bylaw in place, and that the RDEK’s process for dealing with STRs may very well end up being quite different from that of the Columbia Valley’s incorporated municipalities, since the RDEK doesn’t have the authority to issue permits or business licenses, as municipalities do. He added council may have failed to communicate clearly just how many steps there are in the process of dealing with STRs, and perhaps needs to do so in order not to give “the false idea that a solution may be in place by November.”