The District of Kent is proposing changes to its zoning bylaw that would officially allow short term rentals to operate in the district.
At council Monday night (May 27), director of development services Darcey Kohuch outlined what could become the district’s new rules for short term rentals. These amendments to the zoning bylaw were very similar to what was originally discussed in earlier this year, when council talked about the possibility of bringing legal short term rentals into the community.
The zoning bylaw amendments would see the creation of three categories for short term rentals: bed and breakfasts, short-term commercial accommodation (primary residence) and short-term commercial accommodation (secondary residence).
The bed and breakfast use is already permitted in Kent’s zoning bylaw for agricultural, small-lot agricultural, rural residential, single-dwelling residential, lake area residential, resource management and comprehensive development zones. The two new short-term accommodation categories would also be allowed in these zones.
As bed and breakfasts are already a permitted use in Kent, only a few changes were proposed. These changes include increasing the number of allowable rooms from three to four, and removing the requirement to serve breakfast to overnight guests.
“We’re keeping the bed and breakfast definition,” Kohuch explained. “We have a number of establishments in the district, and that’s the only short term vacation rental that our zoning bylaw currently permits.
“From staff’s perspective, it’s a valuable component to the suite of short term vacation rental options.”
The short-term commercial accommodation categories are both new to the zoning bylaw, and are both relatively similar to the bed and breakfast classification.
All three categories require a business licence, and to have it displayed on the property, and all three will be given annual inspections. Guests can stay for a maximum of 28 days, and there can be a maximum of two guests per room. On-site parking will need to be available, with one parking space per room.
However, the short term rentals would also have some other, more specific requirements.
Short term rentals that are not the primary residence of the owner will have to go through a rezoning application in order to add a companion zone that allows for short term rentals on a secondary residence. The zoning amendment would cost about $1,500.
For rentals that are also the primary residence of the owner, “there’s more of a level of comfort that the owner’s around a good part of the year, watching the rental,” Kohuch said. Because of this, only rentals that are the secondary residence of the owner need to apply for the companion zone.
“This type of use, it’s not the principal residence, it doesn’t have to be the principal residence of the owner, and the owner doesn’t have to be on site during the rental,” Kohuch explained. “So this is the one where there’s a higher probability of issues occurring in the neighbourhood.”
To minimize these issues, staff are also recommending that the rentals have a maximum of five rooms and eight guests staying at one time.
In addition, the property needs to show a 24-hour contact number for the owner, so that someone can be contacted in case of a disturbance. (Unlike bed and breakfasts, short term rentals do not need to have the homeowner on site during the rental.)
“We have experience one issue here with an illegal short term vacation rental, and it was (the owner’s secondary residence),” Kohuch said.
By having the contact information available, “if people have a complaint then we can get in contact with that property. And it’s one of the tools … that can help alleviate any potential issues. And the biggest issue is if you get the wrong renters then there may be noise.”
Owners could be fined for noise complaints; the maximum currently allowed in the district is $500 per occurrence.
A maximum of 50 short term rentals, not including bed and breakfasts, would be allowed in the District of Kent. This includes a maximum of 25 in the Agassiz townsite itself, and a maximum of two per block. A property with a companion zone that allows for short term rentals, but doesn’t have a business licence and isn’t operating as a rental, would still count towards the overall number of rentals in the district.
During council’s discussion of the bylaw amendments, Councillor Duane Post brought up the possibility of someone purchasing a property with a short term rental companion zone attached to it, but not wanting to keep the companion zone.
Kohuch said it was unlikely someone would want to get rid of the companion zone, as it would likely add value to their property. However, at this time, that person would also have to pay $1,500 to remove the companion zone.
“Staff could always consider bringing something back saying if they want to relinquish that zone then we could do it at a lower fee or no fee, if we feel it’s a good way to free the opportunity for someone else,” Kohuch said.
“It’s not a controversial thing to remove the STR,” he added. “It’s more challenging to put it on, as far as the public hearing and public input.”
So far, staff have only completed the amendments to the zoning bylaw, which council gave first and second reading to Monday night. Staff will still need to complete amendments to the business licence bylaw, which will outline how much short term rental business licences would cost, and the fees and charges bylaw.
A public hearing about short term rentals in the District of Kent will be held on June 24 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers.