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Initiative underway to permit short-term rentals in City of Powell River CD4 zones

Zoning amendment recommended by director of planning services
REVIEWS PLANS: City of Powell River director of planning services Jason Gow appeared before the committee of the whole to outline a property owner’s intention to rezone their property to the CD4 zone Gow hopes can accommodate short-term and vacation rentals.

City of Powell River director of planning services Jason Gow is recommending changes to zoning that would allow for short-term or vacation rentals in zones where it currently is not permissible.

At the October 5 committee of the whole meeting, Gow outlined plans of a property owner at 4000 Saturna Avenue to rezone the property from RM1, which does not allow for short-term rentals, to CD4. Gow said staff’s recommendation is that council amend the zoning bylaw to allow for short-term rentals for CD4 properties.

“The challenge here is the property is zoned RM1, which is a multifamily residential zone that doesn’t permit short-term rental use or vacation rental use,” said Gow. “This is true of all multifamily residential zones and stems from recommendations the city received when we were going through the process to begin regulating short-term rentals. I’m not recommending permitting short-term or vacation rental use in multifamily residential zones. It has been shown to be problematic in other communities where they have allowed this.

“Instead, I am recommending that short-term and vacation rental use be included in the CD4 zone and that the applicant’s property be rezoned from RM1 to CD4.”

Gow said there is a limited rationale for why the CD4 zone doesn’t permit these uses, other than the time when CD4 was established, it was in the early days of regulating short-term rentals.

“To be quite clear, staff were a little bit more interested in seeing CD4 succeed,” said Gow. “However, we’ve been regulating short-term rentals for the last three years and there have only been a handful of complaints, in fact, two, during this time. The program is operating smoothly. Any apprehension that staff originally held, as it relates to including short-term rentals in a new intensive residential zone, is now gone.

“The monitoring system the city uses to regulate short-term rentals allows staff to address noncompliance issues at an early stage, and it also ensures licensing requirements are met. This is key to the effectiveness of the regulatory tools established to support issues where enforcement is required. I am confident that short-term and vacation rental use can be managed in the CD4 zone with minimal impact to surrounding properties.”

Gow said that as for rezoning the applicant’s property from RM1 to CD4, he does not foresee any impacts.

“I would suggest the concept of rezoning all RM1 zone single-family lots to CD4 is worth considering at a future rewrite of the zoning bylaw,” said Gow. “This is because the RM1 zone is a multifamily zone and the ability to accommodate single-family dwellings on single-family lots has created some limitations to these properties when compared to other properties in single and two-family residential zones.”

Forward of draft recommended

Gow said he was recommending councillors forward the draft amendment bylaw to a council meeting for consideration as well as giving direction to staff to schedule a public hearing.

Councillor Cindy Elliott asked if one of the intentions of managing short-term rentals was to try and mitigate or try to prevent housing that is usually appropriate for long-term rentals to be allocated to short-term rentals. She said the high-density areas were considered to be more appropriate to long-term rentals.

Gow said the matter was something for council to consider. He said what has been observed, through the pandemic, is that there has not been a proliferation of short-term rentals. He said it’s at a number that is reasonable. He said there is only so much market for short-term rental use.

“The hope is that people would long-term rent their secondary suites but that isn’t something we can force people to do,” said Gow.

Gow said there is a tremendous number of single-family dwellings located in the RM1 zone. He said he does not support RM1 zoning for single-family-residential lots. He only supports CD4 as a tool because it has more flexibility.

The committee gave consent to send the matter to council for first and second reading, and to send the zoning amendment bylaw to public hearing.