A task force grappling with problems related to “ghost hotels” in the township of Tiny
“Ghost hotels … have the potential to change the character of the area and have a large number of land use impacts,” said the town planner.
Tiny Township council recently asked Jamie Robinson of MHBC Planning Urban Design & Landscape Architecture to provide his advice on the definition of short-term rentals from a planning perspective, directly related to the zoning bylaws of the township, the official plan and the Municipalities Act.
Robinson reviewed Tiny’s current zoning bylaw, enacted in 2006 and having undergone updates for housekeeping issues. He found no clear answer in his research, but was able to define the problem with clarity.
“The task here was to answer two questions,” said Robinson. “Whether or not the short-term rental units (STRs) are for residential or commercial use, and whether or not STRs are permitted by the current zoning by-law (ZBL). “
It is only in recent years that STRs have been a point of contention for many municipalities, from regional to national level, as archaic laws attempt to fill the loopholes they use.
In the memo given to council at a recent Committee of the Whole, Robinson addressed the two issues separately, starting with information on housing units.
“What the ZBL does not currently do,” Robinson began, “is that it identifies different types of housing units, but does not contain any information on tenure – whether it is to be used on a rental basis, or whether they are to be used as owner occupied.There is no information related to this from a housing perspective.
“The reason it’s relevant here is where we see the majority of these STRs are in housing units, be they single housing units or individual housing units. semi-detached homes, ”said Robinson. “There is no specifically defined term in the regulation that distinguishes between the different occupations or rentals of these housing units; there is no timing associated with it.
Robinson noted that only hotels and motels are listed in the ZBL as tourist accommodation units. However, there is a ZBL term called “tourist establishment” which gives a definition of a use that relates to the accommodation of the traveling public.
“So there is a little disconnect between these definitions of tourist accommodation and tourist establishment,” Robinson said, “what I think will in all likelihood be cleaned up by this process or be clearer in this process. . “
In the findings of the MHBC memo, Robinson states that there is a tipping point where a property shifts from residential to commercial use, although he is not sure exactly where that point is.
“There are certainly land use impacts associated with these units where they are used, for lack of a better term, as ghost hotels; where there is a variety in the region. It has the potential to change the character of the area and have a large number of land use impacts, ”said Robinson.
Robinson also cautioned Tiny council and staff to take the time to draft the new definitions, noting that managing risk now for the municipality will reduce legal time and costs if there is a conflict later.
Com. Tony Mintoff proposed an hypothesis on the definition of tourist establishment, where the council of the day chose to limit tourist establishment opportunities to three small zoning areas, such as the Coastal Commercial Zone, as a means of limiting and to regulate occupations for travelers on vacation.
The comment encouraged Robinson to raise two more points.
Since the unique occurrence of STR occurs in housing units, Robinson asked, “Can a housing unit also be a tourist establishment?” Or are tourist establishments meant to be something different that were purpose-built structures like a cabin rental.
Also, to the fact that seasonal waterfront properties are secondary housing for people who live elsewhere in the province, country or the world, but the principles are generally the same.
“As long as people continue to use themselves, for lack of a better term ‘cottage property’, and rent it out periodically, it might fall into a different category,” Robinson said, “I expect that there are different categories developed for different rental frequencies, for example.
Council forwarded the report to the Short Term Leasing Working Group.
Information on the new zoning by-law program can be found on the Township of Tiny website.
Archives of council meetings are available on the Tiny Township YouTube channel.