Plympton-Wyoming’s short term rental rules get another legal look

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Heather Wright/The Independent

Sarnia does it. So does St. Clair. And residents of Plympton-Wyoming want to know why town council won’t pass a bylaw which only allows owners occupying a home to provide short term rentals.

The town has been working on its Short Term Rental Licensing Bylaw for two years, trying to find a way to limit the noise and congestion of renters partying in neighbourhoods along Lake Huron.
Town staff estimates there are about 60 Airbnb type rentals in the community. Only six of those have the owner staying at the property with the guests.

For neighbours of the Airbnb rentals, the noise and congestion can be overwhelming. Monday, council looked at a draft of a bylaw which would put limits in place on the number of people in a unit and the number of cars parking in the area. There were also some provisions around noise and others which would have owners available to deal with trouble makers in a matter of hours.

But some residents opposed to short term rentals in their neighbourhoods say it is not enough. “You’re allowing these units to be zoned as hotels or motels,” said Alex Diemer. “These are commercial activities.”

Diemer says during the debates some councillors have said the units should be regulated because people are just trying to make ends meet by renting out their property.

“The data shows these are investment properties. They’re not owner operated. The City of Sarnia said you have to be an owner operator. St. Clair Township – they’re saying owner operated … 66 communities in BC have now said no to Airbnb…Hollywood is limited to 200 licenses, Bluewater Township, 15 per cent on a street (can be short term rentals),” says Diemer.

But the legal advice the town has received about shaping the new bylaw says forcing the rental units to be owner occupied could be found to be discriminatory.

“I think that’s BS” says Deputy Mayor Netty McEwen who has always advocated for the idea of only allowing rentals when people live on the property.

But some councillors saw no reason entrepreneurs should not buy homes for the sole purpose of renting them out.

“There’s lots of enterprises taking place throughout our municipality and where does it start? Where does it stop and how much isn’t residential? How much is in commercial? asked Councillor John Van Klaveren.

“We don’t want to snap out somebody who has a great idea that wants to make a few bucks and provide for the family.

“I don’t see anything wrong with that whatsoever.”

Diemer pointed out that Van Klaveren and the town’s lawyers are missing the obvious. “I can’t have a dump at my house. I can’t open a retail spot in my house but you can operate a hotel. Your advice is terrible.”

Council eventually agreed the idea of limiting rentals to only homeowners who live on the property deserved a second look and deferred the bylaw so the lawyers can be consulted.

But resident John Craig Smith warned allowing the rental of properties to continue without an owner on site will lead to more dangerous situations.

“In no situation should any adjoining neighbours… have to take on a group of people who arrive as guests or clients or whatever, and try to elicit or extract good behaviour from them to the point that it becomes a conflict,” he said.

Some councillors were opposed to the bylaw because it would require enforcement.
This is a very complicated bylaw, a very expensive bylaw, which will cost taxpayers money,” said Councillor Bob Woolvett.

And Councillor Kristen Rodrigues said the bylaw was necessary.

“People need short term accommodations for work. They need it to come in for weddings or family reunions, all kinds of reasons.” Diemer countered having short stay rentals is one thing, but Plympton-Wyoming wouldn’t put a hotel in a residential neighbourhood, so why should the Airbnb’s be allowed.

Diemers also raised the question of whether some councillors were in a conflict of interested, citing real estate agents who may have an interest or councillors with relatives who have Airbnbs.

Van Klaveren said he doesn’t believe he’s in conflict as a real estate agent. “I have in no way shape or form any business relationship with anybody in the short term rental business, we might share a brokerage. We’re all independent operators. So my conscience is crystal clear.”