Vacation rentals bylaw preoccupies regional district board meeting

Bylaw could give vacation rentals special treatment in South Okanagan

Public pressure to outlaw vacation rentals prompted the regional district to propose special treatment for three neighbourhoods on the east side of Skaha Lake, but one resident doesn’t think the measure goes far enough.

Vacation rentals would be “generally discouraged” in Heritage Hills, Lakeshore Highlands and Skaha Estates, according to a bylaw amendment given preliminary approval last week by the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

The amendment is part of a proposed overhaul of the Official Community Plan for Area D-2, which also includes Okanagan Falls.

Deborah Shields, who’s been leading the fight against vacation rentals in Heritage Hills, called it “a big step forward.

“We’re halfway across the sidewalk, but we’re not at the other side,” she said.

Shields wants an outright ban on vacation rentals, which she said are ruining the character of her neighbourhood and disrupting her home life.

She and another Heritage Hills resident, Lise Maurier, organized community opposition.

As of this week they had collected 110 signatures on a petition in support of their cause.

“It reinforces the point that our community wants to retain our zoning,” Shields said.

The petition will be presented to Tom Siddon, the RDOS director for the area, at a public hearing next week on the proposed OCP amendments.

Siddon said he has already heard the “public outcry” and asked RDOS staff to add the phrase “generally discouraged” into the bylaw as a “means of providing a disincentive to people who might have applied to build further vacation rentals.”

“I think we have to respect the wishes of people who buy into a single-family neighbourhood,” he said.

As proposed, rentals would be regulated through a new requirement for owners to have a temporary-use permit issued by the RDOS board.

Before granting such a permit, the board would take into account community concerns and other factors.

Shields said she’s pleased Siddon has listened to her concerns and taken action, but hopes he can find a way to strengthen the language in the proposed OCP amendment.

By contrast, the RDOS has already reworked its bylaws to make vacation rentals a permitted use at the Apex Mountain ski village.

The public hearing for the Area D-2 amendments is set for Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Okanagan Falls Community Centre.

Other topics of discussion will include designation of growth areas and industrial lands.