As the Thompson-Nicola Regional District takes a hard line on short-term rentals, the City of Kamloops remains less concerned about their impacts.
Short-term rentals are listed online via platforms such as AirBNB or VRBO and offer short-term rentals of rooms, suites or homes. They are used as mortgage-helpers or run as businesses and are largely unregulated, as opposed to traditional bed and breakfasts and hotel accommodations.
In a split vote following a Sept. 22 public hearing, the TNRD board denied a temporary-use permit for a short-term rental in Whitecroft, a small village below Sun Peaks.
The TNRD previously decided to assess short-term rental permits on a temporary and case-by-case basis.
Tim and Kathryn Sheerer sought a three-year permit to rent out their chalet, at 7360 Cahilty Cres. The couple told KTW they intended to stay in Whitecroft part-time during retirement to be near their daughter, who lives next to the property. Their daughter would manage the short-term rental in their absence. They intended to spend the remainder of their time in Ontario near their other daughter. The short-term rental would provide flexibility and help offset expenses.
TNRD staff recommended approval of the temporary-use permit.
Whitecroft residents, however, appeared before the board to express opposition. Neighbours expressed concern about issues that may arise from short-term rental accommodations in the small mountain community.
Penny Erickson told the board enforcement can be difficult. She noted a lack of amenities in the community and shortage of available housing for Sun Peaks staff.
Andrea Nielsen said vacation homes can become party houses with many guests.
“There’s nothing really you can do in the neighbourhood,” she said. “There’s the noises and people are sitting in hot tubs and they are sometimes late in the morning. Even if you call the companies and complain, there’s nothing that happened. Whitecroft also does not have patrolling bylaw officers.”
TNRD Area P (Rivers and the Peaks) director Mel Rothenburger moved to deny the temporary-use permit, citing the residents’ concerns.
Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine agreed, noting the resort community held a two-hour public meeting on short-term rentals earlier this month.
“Nothing divides a community more than STRs (short-term rentals) and neighbours and we’re divided down the middle,” Raine said, noting it is lucrative and some do a good job, but others create neighbourhood nuisance.
Raine said a business licence may allow accommodations for 12 people, while online vacation rental ads double the occupancy, based on beds. He said enforcement is “critical,” noting disturbances usually occur late at night and trying to assess a complaint after-the-fact turns into a he-said-she-said scenario.
The TNRD’s development director, Regina Sadilkova, said the regional district currently enforces short-term rentals on a complaint and nuisance (noise, mess, fire risk, etc.) basis. She said the regional district typically has two or three enforcement files open and noted successful legal action against a short-term rental operator in Red Lake, including recuperating legal costs. She said the board also has an ability to claw back a temporary-use permit and require a security deposit.
Kamloops Coun. Mike O’Reilly noted a dozen short-term rentals operating in the area without a permit and credited the couple for coming forward to ask permission.
If approved, the property would have been the first short-term rental authorized by the regional district in Whitecroft. Raine suggested illegal short-term rentals be sent cease-and-desist letters.
The board voted 14-12 to deny the permit. Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian and Kamloops Coun. Denis Walsh voted to deny the permit, while Kamloops councillors O’Reilly, Dale Bass, Dieter Dudy, O’Reilly and Arjun Singh were in favour of granting the permit.
Also voting to deny the permit were Raine , Rothenburger, Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell, Merritt Mayor Linda Brown, Chase Mayor Rod Crowe, Area L (Grasslands) director Ken Gillis, Area O (Lower North Thompson) director Bill Kershaw, Area B (Thompson Headwaters) director Stephen Quinn, Area A (Wells Gray Country) director Carol Schaffer, Logan Lake Mayor Robin Smith and Cache Creek Mayor Santo Talarico.
Also voting to grant the permit were Area J (Copper Desert Country) director Ronaye Elliott, Area M (Nicola Valley North) director David Laird, Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman, Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer, Clinton Mayor Susan Swan, Area I (Blue Sky Country) director Steven Rice, Ashcroft Mayor Barbara Roden and Area E (Bonaparte Plateau) director Sally Watson.
The Sheerers told KTW they were disappointed by the board’s decision and did not understand why their permit was denied when the regional district had the ability to shut them down if the property became problematic.
They said they would have not let the property get out of hand because it would negatively impact their investment and part-time home. They also questioned why they went through the permitting process — which was timely and cost $1,200 — only to be turned down, as other short-term rental properties continue to operate without a permit.
“So, they’ll just carry on and do it under the table because why would they put themselves through this?” Kathryn Sheerer asked.
SHORT-TERM RENTALS IN KAMLOOPS:
Christian told KTW there are about 200 AirBNB listings in the city, which staff are watching.
“When you get to Kelowna’s numbers of, I believe, about 3,000 listings, it becomes an issue for them to wrestle, but for 200, we haven’t really felt it necessary,” he said.
Christian noted a number of considerations when it comes to short-term rentals. He said they can impede other accommodations, but because Kamloops’ occupancy rate is high, the city has not received complaints. He said short-term rentals can be mortgage helpers, but can also take away from long-term accommodations.
Meanwhile, Christian said some short-term rentals can be a nuisance to neighbourhoods. The city has, in fact, received noise and parking complaints related to short-term rentals. He said the owner-occupant is often not on site, which can lead to parties and other events hosted and many vehicles taking up parking.
Christian said the city deals with those situations on a one-off basis. Noise can be dealt with through city bylaws, but street parking is not owned by anyone, he noted.
Christian said the city is in a better position than the TNRD to deal with short-term rental complaints because it has 20 community service officers on duty to respond.