A Metchosin resident shares her opinion on short-term vacation rentals during a public workshop at the municipal hall on Tuesday. (Kendra Wong/News Gazette staff)

Short-term vacation rental workshop draws mixed reaction in Metchosin

Staff to come up with regulations, but debate far from over

After roughly an hour-and-a-half of public discussion on short-term vacation rentals earlier this week, one thing is certain: the District of Metchosin must do something to regulate the industry.

But what those regulations look like and how they will be enforced are still being considered.

During a workshop Tuesday, mayor and councillors voted to have staff draft policies to regulate the booming industry and report back to the planning committee in the coming months.

“Regulation has a cost to it. If we’re going to regulate, we have to face how we regulate without incurring a whole lot of costs that we can ill afford,” Mayor John Ranns said.

“We try to operate the municipality on as tight a budget as we possibly can, and that includes not having excessive regulations or excessive enforcement.”

The decision comes after the committee heard mixed reactions from dozens of residents who voiced their opinion on the issue of short-term vacation rentals, such as Airbnbs and Vacation Rentals by Owners (VRBO).

RELATED: Metchosin hosting workshop on ways to regulate Airbnbs

According to a staff report released in November, there were 17 properties in Metchosin listed on vacation rental websites in August and 16 in November. Many of those properties are clustered around Sandgate and William Head roads – an area council hopes to take aim at specifically.

Jeanne Enright, who has lived on Sandgate for close to four decades, said the increase in the number of short-term vacation rentals in the area are turning the area into a ghost town.

“The neighbourhood has changed. There’s been a lot of empty houses. It’s disturbing to me in some respects to see the neighbourhood so empty,” she said. “We do need regulation. We don’t want our neighbourhood to be a ghost town. We want to see families there, we want to see people that we know there. It’s a big concern to me, because we’re proud of our neighbourhood. We can’t have that many Airbnbs all together.”

Another resident who also lives on Sandgate said there are many days when she can’t go outside due to the high level of noise from vacationing families.

RELATED: Metchosin takes aim at short-term vacation rentals

However, many spoke in favour of short-term vacation rentals as well.

Blake MacKenzie, manager of EMR Vacation Rentals in Langford, said they offer alternatives to hotels and bed and breakfasts.

He added people who use the properties are multifaceted, some come for vacation, others for academic stays at Royal Roads University, are in transitional housing situations, or are snowbirds.

“The people who stay in these properties, they do participate. They provide patronage to local businesses, they go to farmers’ markets and buy produce. A lot of these people want to experience local,” said MacKenzie, noting he isn’t against regulations, but cautioned that overly harsh ones would only drive the industry underground.

“The STR industry has had a positive affect on communities overall.”

Other residents who operate short-term vacation rentals said there are a number of reasons why they chose to run one.

Liza Dawson-Whisker lives in Sooke but recently purchased property in Metchosin on Sandgate Road, as a future retirement home. But the price of renting out the house wouldn’t cover the cost of the mortgage, which is why she opted to operate a short-term rental.

“With such a small number of short-term rentals in Metchosin, it doesn’t have the same pressing needs as Victoria, with the housing shortage,” she said. “I just think that too much regulation and money shouldn’t be spent on something that … isn’t a problem.”

Currently, the District does not have a policy regarding short-term vacation rentals, but it does have the ability to regulate them through zoning, by allowing or prohibiting land uses in different zones, requiring them to have business licences or through nuisance bylaws.

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