Editorial: Keeping it in check

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The short-term vacation rentals controversy has bubbled up on Salt Spring once again, following proactive enforcement efforts by the Islands Trust in the past several months.

While some people have reported that even legitimate B&Bs have received notice to cease operating, which would be unfortunate, for the most part it appears that Trust staff are doing what they should be doing in following local Trust committee direction.

Under current Trust bylaws, properties not zoned for commercial accommodation should not be used for that purpose. A number of island properties have CA zoning, and more could be rezoned for that purpose. Bed and breakfasts can also legally operate as a home-based business on most/many island properties.

As the arguments from both sides are aired, it seems that most islanders would agree that homes zoned for residential use with no homeowner present on the property should not be rented as stand-alone vacation rental units. Nowhere in Salt Spring’s official community plan or zoning bylaws can sanctioning of that land use be found. The last OCP review process more than 10 years ago reaffirmed the community’s desire to not have residentially zoned properties rented for commercial accommodation purposes. The next OCP review will likely reach the same conclusion.

Where some room for movement could be contemplated, however, is in the strict rule that accommodation units where homeowners are present must not have kitchen facilities, and that breakfast must be provided by the property owner. In terms of impact, what is the difference between a unit where visitors can cook their own breakfast, at the very least, and one where they cannot?

Clearly the island relies on tourism in order to have a healthy economy, and adequate accommodation for visitors is necessary. But a new initiative to encourage shoulder-season visitors, being promoted by the Southern Gulf Islands Tourism Partnership Society, makes more sense than letting summertime tourism grow unchecked, aided by illegal STVRs.

We look forward to the issue being aired through the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee during the next OCP review, if not before.

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