Radium Hot Springs is divided on the issue of short-term room rentals, with 60 per cent of 301 survey respondents saying they’re fine having temporary guests in their neighbourhoods or their buildings, while 40 per cent are uncomfortable with that prospect.
With 46 per cent of respondents having advertised their properties for short-term rentals or considering doing so, emotions are running high on both sides.
“There’s definitely two sides, two camps,” said councillor Todd Logan.
Councillor Mike Gray agreed, and said: “The people that are really unhappy with it are because they’re sharing a wall with the neighbour.”
Some of the respondents said short-term rentals decrease property values; others said they increase them. Some said brief renters have no buy-in to be good neighbours; others said at least the renters leave, while an unpleasant neighbour is there to stay. Some said they feel unsafe with short-term renters on the loose; others said a drained out community is less safe that one that’s packed full.
To be more specific about some of their concerns, one respondent wrote: “People run amok with their dogs soiling the hallways, smoking pot on their decks and carousing at all hours of the night.” In contrast, another said: “the local undesirables… are more of a security risk than visitors who pay to be here.”
One said: “short-term rentals during peak time added noise, drunken idiots and parking issues.” Another saw things differently and said: “We are happy for people to be able to make use of their property.”
Respondents also disagreed on the consequences of short-term rentals. On the one hand, “they can certainly wreak havoc on our little town.” On the other hand, “if short-term rentals were stopped then the whole of the economy will suffer.”
So what is a council to do?
“I feel that the electorate is asking us to make a stand,” Mayor Clara Reinhardt told her council colleagues.
But she isn’t convinced that short-term renters are necessarily the culprits when it comes to the issues they’re being blamed for including loud parties and parking issues.
“Prove to me it’s the short-term rentals,” she said. “We can’t paint all of the clients with the same brush.”
Weekenders, seasonal residents, owners’ friends and family members, those who end up in the village to “relax and let loose” or anyone else could be responsible for being noisy and parking out of turn, she said.
Regardless of whoever is behind those disturbances, she felt that the majority of residents’ complaints seemed like issues that individual strata boards could resolve.
The bigger issue for council is that, according to Mark Read, the Village’s chief administrative officer, the law is unclear about whether short-term rentals are allowed in residential homes or whether they should be considered as businesses. Also unclear is what kind of liability the Village might inadvertently be accepting if it does nothing.
For instance, councillor Tyler McCauley asked: “What happens if the building catches on fire and that guy didn’t have insurance?”
Council directed staff to create draft guidelines – such as requiring that owners have insurance to cover short-term rentals – that the Village could discuss with stratas before moving ahead. The draft is scheduled to come before council at their meeting on Wednesday, October 9th.
Wildlife not such a concern
After a petition on troublesome turkeys drew a flock of citizens to council chambers last winter, council was surprised to receive such neutral responses to their survey on local wildlife.
The survey, which had 205 responses, indicated that the majority of residents aren’t especially concerned about the turkeys, deer and sheep that roam the streets.
“I was surprised by the lack of concern,” said councillor Dale Shudra.
Turkeys were the least popular among respondents, with 34 per cent concerned with them and 65 per cent unconcerned or indifferent. The biggest issue with turkeys was damage to trees and property followed by overpopulation.
Deer came in second, with 30 per cent concerned about them and 70 per cent unperturbed. Respondents were most concerned about car accidents and damage to plants and property.
With bighorn sheep, 20 per cent had concerns about aggression while 80 per cent were unbothered by their four-hoofed neighbours.
The majority of respondents supported public education and a ban on feeding turkeys and deer, while smaller percentages would support a turkey cull (36 per cent), turkey hazing and repellents (19 per cent), a deer cull (25 per cent) and deer hazing and repellents (25 per cent).
“I think that people who are unaffected are unconcerned,” councillor Gray said. “I definitely took it as this isn’t a pressing concern.”
Even so, the Village intends to proceed with public education and a discussion with their creature-management committee.
Mayor Reinhardt said: “I feel like education totally is going to resolve some of this.”
Should Radium’s churches have a tax exemption? The question, which councillor Gray raised at an earlier council meeting, won’t be answered any time soon as Radium wants to “test the waters first locally” in conversation with other communities in the Kootenay area before raising the question provincially. The church exemption will continue for the coming tax season.