Bracebridge is set to increase regulations on Short-Term Rental Accommodations (STRAs) and take a closer look at a Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT).
That was the outcome of a far-ranging discussion by Town councillors during the most recent Bracebridge general committee meeting.
Despite the recommendation of staff to the contrary, councillors voted to create a new STRA Licensing By-law implementing the recommendations put forward in a recent report from an outside consultant.
They also voted that a MAT feasibility study be completed and presented to the General Committee. The implementation of a MAT allows municipalities to apply a mandatory rate on accommodations. The MAT could be applicable not only to STRAs but also to hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts. The funds collected would be reinvested in tourism promotion and tourism products.
According to the consultants, the existing STRA Licensing By-law should be replaced with a much more comprehensive licensing by-law. Their recommendation includes the addition of several elements, including eligibility criteria, licensee acknowledgements, occupancy standards and a maximum number of licences to be issued.
The debate went on for several hours as some councillors said they were being inundated with complaints regarding everything from noise and smoke to parking issues. However, other councillors and Mayor Rick Maloney said they’ve heard nothing at all.
“I’ve had zero calls to me as the mayor about short-term rentals,” said Maloney. “I don’t doubt that there are concerns. The concerns that my Council colleagues are hearing are not getting to staff or into the system to take the anecdotal and make it more factual.”
Maloney said there are many associated costs with implementing the new rules they simply do not know at this time.
CAO Stephen Rettie said the job was being done under the current system. He said staff have now reported back to the committee six times on the subject, and resources would be stretched even thinner if the new plans are implemented. Data collected from March 2022 to March 2023 show that Bracebridge By-Law Enforcement received 11 calls for service to STRAs, representing 3% of the total calls for service during that time.
“We don’t want to have to report back again but we will if we have to,” he said.
Coun. Archie Buie said he receives complaints regularly in his ward.
“I get too many calls and too many people crying saying that their lifestyle has been interrupted and what they came to Muskoka to enjoy is now being destroyed,” he said. “We have to move forward.”
Coun. Don Smith agreed that he’s received complaints as well. He suggested that the MAT could help pay for part of the program.
The decision must still be ratified by council on Wednesday.
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