In a split vote, the Bracebridge Planning and Development Committee narrowly defeated a motion to freeze all new short-term rental accommodations.
While the counsellors all appeared to be in agreement that something should be done to put greater controls on short-term rentals, the debate centred around the best way to implement those controls.
During the meeting, Town of Bracebridge staff put forward a report they had created on the short-term rental situation in Bracebridge and some possible paths forward. Staff ultimately recommended against enforcing an interim control bylaw, which would place an outright freeze on new short-term rentals.
Staff indicated implementing the freeze would cause tremendous confusion for both short-term rental providers and residents who have issues with those accommodations. They also said there has been a lack of public input thus far, and introducing the control bylaw now without extensive public notification could cause legal problems down the road.
The latest evidence available, which was collected in September of 2021, indicates there are some 290 active or imminent short-term rental listings in Bracebridge.
Councillor Barb McMurray was in favour of the bylaw, saying she receives between three and five phone calls a weekend regarding noise complaints from short-term rentals. McMurray said perhaps she would start handing out the phone numbers of other councillors to the complainants, as some of them seem to think there was no problem with short-term rentals at all.
Councillor Rick Maloney said he understands there are issues with short-term rentals but he could not agree to the interim control bylaw. Maloney said the lack of public input on the bylaw is troubling.
“It’s very dangerous to make decisions based on anecdotal evidence,” he said.
Maloney said the Town made steps to increase bylaw enforcement this summer and it made sense to see what sort of effect that would have on the issue.
Mayor Graydon Smith also voted against the freeze, citing the increased funding for bylaw controls in this year’s budget. He said the process of taking people to court for violations of the interim control bylaw would likely be a lengthy one resulting in relatively minor fines.
“There’s no hammer at the end of this rainbow,” he said.
Councillor Archie Buie said the Town is already behind many municipalities in Ontario, and they will only continue to slip further behind unless they take some sort of immediate action.
“We need to freeze this or it’s going to get bigger and bigger,” he said.
Four of the committee members voted in favour of the freeze and four voted against. Under municipal rules, that means the motion was defeated.
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