Around a dozen residents came out to the public hearing on proposed changes to Kent’s zoning bylaw, that would allow for short term rentals in the district. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

Approval for AirBnB-style rentals in Kent delayed after public hearing

Staff will be taking the bylaw amendments back for a closer look before final adoption

Residents still have concerns about short term rentals in the District of Kent, despite proposed rules that would restrict the impact of short term rentals in the community.

During the public hearing on Monday (June 24), a dozen residents came out to share their views on the proposed bylaw amendments that would allow short term rentals in the District of Kent.

The bylaw amendments would allow a maximum of 50 short term rentals in the district, including 25 in the Agassiz townsite, and would limit the number of STRs to two per block. The rentals would have to provide enough on-site parking for guests, and rentals where the owner doesn’t live will need to go through a rezoning process.

RELATED: Kent’s proposed short term rental bylaw heads to public hearing

For most of the residents who spoke at the public hearing, the main comments were about Rockwell Drive, which already has a number of unlicensed short term rentals.

“We moved to Rockwell Drive as a way to have peace and serenity and nature, and it feels like our concern is that the neighbourhood is going to change significantly,” Jennifer Todd, who lives on Rockwell Drive, said during the public hearing.

Todd had a number of concerns about short term rentals around her property, as three of the seven in her neighbourhood are already operating despite being not allowed in the district. These were largely around the tenant’s disruption to the neighbourhood, especially when it came to noise, garbage, alcohol and cigarettes. She also expressed concerns about the district’s ability to police short term rentals if they do become allowed under the bylaw.

RELATED: District of Kent on track to allow short term rentals

“The neighbours that have put their properties on AirBnB are not licensed now,” she said. “So if it’s not licensed now, how will it be enforced going forward?”

In response, director of development services Darcey Kohuch said that the District of Kent has been shutting down illegal short term rentals, but that there are more rentals than the district gets calls about.

If the proposed bylaw changes come into effect, the district would be working with property owners to make sure they are in compliance with the new rules.

“When we recognize that once we go through this process and we get clear definition from council on where we’re going to go on the land use issue, then we have to address all the people that are advertising short term rentals and work with them to come into compliance,” he said. “If they can’t be in compliance, then we’ll discontinue the operations. That’s what we’ll need to do.

“But as you can appreciate, that’s a difficult thing to do without having clarity on where we go.”

Other residents also spoke about their concerns, including whether property owners would be able to lease to a “middle-man” or property manager to deal with the short term rentals.

For Cal Guest, who operates an AirBnB out of his home on Rockwell Drive, there is more good that will come out of allowing short term rentals in the district.

“There seems to be one bad property,” he said. “We think it’s good for the community, it’s good for property values.”

He noted that there was a “problem property” in the area, and he had concerns about that property, which is right on the lake.

“It’s been a non-stop party,” he said. But “the property in front of us has been an AirBnB … since February. They’re essentially booked out and we have not heard one peep.”

“I just don’t think that you can let one bad apple ruin it for everyone else,” he added. “It’s a beautiful community and everyone should be given that opportunity.”

RELATED: Village says ‘no’ to short term vacation rentals

The public hearing closed after council heard from five people — including one who was disappointed that the proposed bylaw wouldn’t allow for short term rentals on commercial properties with residential spaces above. (Kohuch responded by saying they didn’t include those properties in an attempt to provide more affordable rentals downtown and a better community feel with more permanent eyes on the street, although he noted those were areas council could look at in the future.)

During the public meeting that followed, staff requested that council not approve the proposed bylaws yet.

“After we discuss at least the issue with defining blocks, and how we implement any applications when we’re limiting the numbers per block … I think there’s a little bit more work to do,” Kohuch said.

One of the speakers during the public hearing had asked about the definition of a block in the zoning bylaw, and there isn’t one in the bylaw as of yet. Kohuch said that a block could be considered a street from one intersection to another, or from one intersection to a dead end or cul-de-sac, but that isn’t formally part of the zoning bylaw.

Council agreed to not give third reading or adoption to the bylaw changes, and instead will wait for staff to report back to council on any other changes that may need to be made.

“The definition of a block and the enforcement issues are things that we need to get a little bit more clarity on,” Coun. Stan Watchorn said.

Watchorn also noted his concern about when there is more than one applicant on a block.

“How do we fairly make decisions when there’s a limited number allowable, like two, and we have more than two applicants,” he said. “In this case, I don’t think first-come, first-serve is the right way to deal with this. I think we need to look at other ways.”



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

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