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After over 2 years wait, Okanagan Similkameen vacation review back to square one

The regional district directors voted against staff’s plan for a vacation rental review
The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen offices. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

After two years of waiting, it’s back to the drawing board for the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen on the topic of vacation rentals.

The board of directors on April 4 voted to scrap the planned review, and instead push off any further planning on the topic until after the directors go through a workshop on business licences for the RDOS.

The vote was not unanimous, with Directors Spencer Coyne, Bob Coyne, Rick Knodel, Adrienne Fedrigo, Campbell Watt, Tim Roberts and Andrew Graham all opposed.

Director Bob Coyne was particularly frustrated with the decision to scrap the project after more than two years of waiting for staff to have the time to finally launch it.

“I’ve been promising my constituents out here who have been very involved in this process that we would be having this review, I did that as late as Saturday afternoon,” said Coyne. “I just think that this is just absolutely the wrong way to go on this. We need to know more information about how many are there. We need to through this. We need to figure out a way to be able to have restrictions in certain areas more so than others.

“This just really needs to be looked at and to stop now in midstream, I will not support that.”

What the RDOS staff had pictured for the review would have a consulting firm break down the impacts of short-term rentals on the residential rental market, neighbourhoods, traditional accommodation providers like hotels and impacts on the local economy.

READ MORE: West Bench, Kaleden, Okanagan Falls opt in to short term rental regulations

The firm would also be directed to review options for regulation of short-term rentals, such as permit processes like the RDOS current Temporary Use Permits, business licencing requirements, health and safety considerations and enforcement options.

For some of the directors who voted to go back to the drawing board, they pointed to the recent changes to provincial legislation that were still unfolding.

“Something I was just made aware of, it sounds like there are some changes coming to vacation rentals, that might deal with some of this issue,” said Director Jason Wiebe. “I don’t understand the full complexities of it, but something in regards to if the short-term rental works with a tour company that there is some way to skirt some of what we’re trying to do. I’m wondering if there’s still ongoing changes to the legislation that might affect what we’re trying to do that we aren’t aware of.”

Staff noted that the fact they were proposing to just start the review now meant that they could still adjust to take into account new changes from the province.

Director Fedrigo noted later on in the meeting that the information Wiebe was referring to was in documents shared by the province, which specifies outdoor recreational activity lodging as exempt, such as for hunting, fishing, kayaking and canoeing.

Other directors noted that when it comes to the impact of short-term rentals, the City of Penticton and other municipalities in the region had recently done their own studies on those issues that could shared with the RDOS.

While Coyne did not want to scrap the project fully, he had noted that some of the deliverables staff were planning to ask a consultant for would be far better suited for local directors, in particular the impact on neighbourhoods in the region.

“We need to go out to all of our local communities and make sure that they’re ok with it and I don’t believe that’s something that we should be trying to hand off to a consultant,” said Coyne. “I think the area directors are probably gonna have to step up on a lot of that.”

After voting to scrap what staff were proposing, all of the directors except Director James Miller voted to keep the review on the RDOS’ project tracker as a place-holder until they decide what to replace it with.

A date for the upcoming workshop for the directors on business licences was not announced, and it is not known when the matter will return to the board for a decision.

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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