By Camille Aubin
A potential bylaw regarding short-term rentals (STR) in the village of Radium Hot Springs was taken one step further at the most recent village council meeting, the latest twist in an effort that has been ongoing for the past two years.
At the Jan. 27 Radium Hot Springs council a third draft of the STR policy was ironed out, with some modifications.
Many of the changes incorporated into the third draft came from meetings with short-term housing owners. “The big change that we made was a little bit clearer language because we did a bunch of virtual meetings with the stakeholders. I think we had three meetings that we decided to do on an afternoon, evening and also on a weekend to try and make sure we could accommodate everybody. That’s where the changes came this time,” said mayor Clara Reinhardt during an interview with the Pioneer.
At a prior village council meeting councillor Mike Gray had cited concern about the risk of ‘ghost hotels’, and council has made efforts to address that potential issue in this draft. “What we’re trying to avoid is some businesses coming down and running it like a hotel, but without having to run it as a business. They’re called ghost hotels. We’re trying to avoid that,” explained mayor Reinhardt on the subject.
A regulation in third draft aimed squarely at preventing ‘ghost hotels’ outlines that ‘STR Permit applications from individuals or corporate entities for more than one property shall be approved by Council resolution’.
From Reinhardt’s perspective “we need to start somewhere, and we’ll constantly be reviewing it to see if it’s meeting our needs, visitors’ needs and owners’ needs. But essentially, we know that this might not be the final (version). We want to operate for a year, see where we’re at, and then make changes if we have to. We recognize that we’re going blind. We don’t even know how many (STRs) are out there.”
Another amendment to the third draft concerns the policy statement, which now reads ‘The village will reserve the right to reconsider a system of limiting the number of STR permits issued to individuals or corporate entities, including the total number of STR permits issued, at a future date.’ This not only aims to prevent ‘ghost hotels’ but also leaves council with the ability to cap the number of STRs in Radium.
Other modifications are meant to ensure that guest safety requirements are met. The number of adult occupants approved per room has been limited to two individuals per room. Another modification requires one parking space for every two rooms in an STR.
With an STR policy hammered out, village staff will now begin work on creating a first draft of a bylaw, based on the policy. “We committed that we needed to get something in place because then there’s a start date. So if there’s people with their Airbnb or STRs that are taking bookings now, we have to give them enough time that they can honour the bookings they already have and put the new changes in place. Moving forward, they have the permit number posted. And possibly they have to raise their fees to cover the cost of their permit,” said mayor Reinhardt.
As outlined in the policy, fees for STR owners in Radium will be $250 fee per STR in the first year. In the following years, the fees will be reduced to $150 per STR per year. Additionally, if the property is sold, then the STR license will be transferred to the new owners.
“We’re just a small village. We need to, in my opinion, to right-size this. We’re not Whistler. We’re the Village of Radium Hot Springs. Let’s get going. Let’s see how many are out there and then once we know what we have, then we can fine-tune it,’’ concluded Reinhardt.