Bracebridge council is set to freeze all new short-term rentals (STRs) within the Town limits.
The move came yesterday after Bracebridge General Committee voted 5 to 3 to enforce an interim control bylaw on STRs. They also voted to establish a registry for currently existing STRs that will be utilized to collect data.
The bylaw must still be ratified by Bracebridge Council during next Wednesday evening’s meeting but if passed it will effectively mean no new strs will be allowed in Bracebridge for the next three years.
STRs have been a controversial issue across Ontario over the past several years, and particularly in areas of the province where tourism is a major sector. Bracebridge council has been debating the matter for some time and has considered whether to impose a freeze on new STRs, to enact some type of new licensing and registration system, or to rely on traditional methods of bylaw enforcement to tackle issues such as noise and burning complaints.
Councillor Rick Maloney voted against the interim control bylaw, saying that the Town recently approved more resources for bylaw enforcement in their 2022 budget and they should gauge the effectiveness of those changes before moving on to the more heavy-handed measure of an interim control bylaw.
“I have concerns,” said Maloney. “An interim control is used infrequently because it limits the rights of landowners and that’s something as a council we don’t necessarily want to do.”
Maloney pointed out that the municipality of Oro-Medonte recently enacted a similar freeze on STRs, only to have their decision reversed at the Ontario Land Tribunal at considerable taxpayer expense. Maloney said he firmly believes any interim control bylaw in Bracebridge will meet with similar appeals.
He instead proposed a mandatory registration and licensing by law for STRs, but his motion was defeated by council.
Councillor Stephen Clement agreed with Maloney, saying the Town has had virtually no public input on whether there was support for an interim control bylaw. He pointed out that the Town’s own staff recommended against the bylaw, and it would do nothing to address the complaints stemming from existing STRs.
On the other side of the argument, Coun. Don Smith said STRs have proliferated in the community in recent years and many more are set to begin operations shortly. He agreed that the interim control bylaws should only be used in a limited fashion, but he argued that the concerns and complaints coming from the public warranted the move in these circumstances.
He said the bylaw will include a registry, which is a vital aspect of gaining information and some control over the situation.
Councillors Don Smith, Mark Quemby, Barb McMurray, Chris Wilson and Archie Buie voted in favour of the interim control bylaw while councillors Maloney, Clement and Mayor Graydon Smith were opposed.
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