Council discusses short term rental issue, but does not implement prohibition in R1 zoned areas of town

By Steve Hubrecht

Short term rentals (STR) continue to be a hot topic in the Columbia Valley, and came up for discussion at a late March Invermere council meeting, after a local resident implored council to consider prohibiting STRs in residential community zoned R1.

The request came from Pine Ridge resident David Hunt, who explained that he lives in a R1-zoned part of Pine Ridge a few lots away from a VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner, a website similar to Air BnB, which allows people to offer their properties for short term rental). 

“While quiet for much of last year, there have been up to six cars in the driveway and on the road and noisy parties. Although short-term rentals are prohibited in the disclosure document, they are not specifically prohibited by the strata bylaws,” wrote Hunt, noting that while STR may not technically be allowed by the district of Invermere, neither are they specifically prohibited. “I urge the council to prohibit short-term rentals in R-1 and since these units rent for $500 a day or more, to provide for substantial penalties for breaching the bylaws.”

Councillor Gerry Taft acknowledged that STRs are indeed a controversial topic in Invermere, and elsewhere in the Columbia Valley, but added that it is his understanding that the Pine Ridge Mountain Resort area is designated in the district’s zoning bylaws to allow for STRs and “that that’s one area of the community where it’s clearly stated it was supposed to be a kind of a resort up there. Obviously, there are some neighbourhoods, you know, the Wilder subdivision and other areas, where there’s been some problems with single family homes being rented to big party groups. But Pine Ridge is one of those areas where it’s sort of been allowed.”

Taft adding it’s obviously a complex issue and needs to be discussed “but I’m not sure if there’s going to be a prohibition in Pine Ridge.”

Invermere planner Rory Hromadnik chimed in that Taft was partially correct, but not completely, in regards to the zoning in Pine Ridge, and pointed out that Pine Ridge is a mix of R1 zoning and R3A zoning.

“The only zoning we have in town that actually accommodates ‘tourist homes’ which is what we call STR stays of 28 days or less, is the R3A. The R3A up in Pine Ridge accommodates that, but the R1 (in Pine Ridge) is the same R1 zoning as the same R1 zoning as the same R1 zoning,” repeated Hromadnik, emphasizing that the R1 zoning in Pine Ridge is the same as the R1 zoning elsewhere in Invermere, and does not allow for STRs stays.

“At this point, it’s been a bit of a blind eye toward the STRs (in R1 zones). They’re occurring and they’re happening (in R1 zones) but it (the R1 zoning) doesn’t have the same resort tourist accommodation attachment (as R3A), that talks about how many beds and heads you’re allowed per unit. It doesn’t have that kind of detail as the R3A,” he said.

Taft noted that there has been controversy about STRs in the past at the Lake Windermere Point condos, when the district sent a letter out intended to go to R1 homeowners in Invermere outlining that STRs are not officially allowed.

“I believe that letter went to a bunch of owners at Lake Windermere Point. In reading past strata minutes from Lake Windermere Point, there were a number of people in that complex that were using the letter from the district to argue that STRs were not allowed in Lake Windermere Point, but that particular area has tourist-commercial zoning as well,” said Taft, adding it’s important to point out these difference to the public. “It is a little nuanced,” he said.