The Regional District of East Kootenay is moving forward with a planning process to regulate short-term rentals with temporary use permits, following approval during a board meeting on Friday.
As short-term rentals become a more prominent option for out-of-area visitors, the RDEK has been studying effective ways of regulation and enforcement of non-compliance, based on concerns and feedback from residents.
Going forward, the RDEK will do another round of public consultation to fine tune the regulatory language associated with the temporary use permits before sending the policy back to the board for consideration.
Short-term rentals are not bad things, said Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick.
“The fact of the matter is all our communities rely on tourism in some way, shape or form,” McCormick told the board. “Many of us do not have enough traditional accommodation to support the tourism industry and there is an entire class of tourist out there that wants to stay in the accommodation that we now call short-term rentals.
“These are not bad things, they’re good things. And the number of exceptions we have, where we have bad actors, is actually very small. So we’re talking about bringing in a new bylaw to regulate them and I think the key to the success of the bylaw is really on the execution. It’s the pieces that are in it and how we as an authority execute on that particular bylaw.
“I think it’s going to be a lot less onerous than what we are afraid that it might be and I think we need to embrace this as an important part of our tourism sector.”
While the regional district does not have a policy on short-term rentals, efforts have been underway since last year to develop one. However, some individual municipalities within the East Kootenay already have one, as Kimberley passed a bylaw last year regulating short-term rentals near the ski hill through business licensing.
Enforcement of regulations was a primary concern raised by directors, as Sparwood mayor David Wilks noted that the RDEK may have to bring on more bylaw enforcement staff to ensure compliance with the rules.
However, McCormick also added that short-term rental operators will self-regulate because of the threat of potentially losing the temporary use permit or business licence if they are not in compliance.
Through the RDEK’s initial public consultation phase, a survey and website were set up to receive feedback, garnering 1,493 responses from both full-time and seasonal residents.
Based on that feedback, 250 respondents said they operated a short-term rental, noting benefits such as ensuring properties are not left vacant, increase in tourism dollars, increased employment in the area.
Concerns from respondents who don’t operate a short-term rental included lack of appreciation for the environment, littering and unattended campfires, excessive noise and trespassing on private property.
Additional data was collected showing the total number of short-term rental units across the RDEK electoral areas (not within a municipality) over a five year period. Area F in the Columbia Valley had the highest inventory for unique short-term rental listings in 2021 at 603, along with 184 short-term rentals that could be considered commercial.
Further data shows that Area F (Columbia Valley) and Area A (Elk Valley) generated the most annual revenue through the use of short-term rentals, in spite of recent impacts from the pandemic. In 2021, Area F generated $4.7 million in revenue, while Area A had $3.3 million. Both areas eclipsed the $7 million threshold the year prior.
Based on formal bylaw complaints, the RDEK received the most from Area F with 28 between 2018 – 2021, according to staff. The RDEK reported a total of 56 formal complaints across all electoral areas during that same time period.