Viewpoint: Trust enforces STVR rules

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By MILES DREW

Re: STVRs on Salt Spring Island: This week, Islands Trust Bylaw Enforcement and Compliance Officers issued 15 fines to the operators of unlawful short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) on Salt Spring Island. These fines are part of an ongoing and escalating enforcement strategy to address the community’s concerns about unlawful STVRs.

This summer, violating Land Use Bylaw #355 by operating, managing or renting unlawful STVRs might earn fines of $500 per day.

Unless there is a significant reduction in the number of unlawful STVR operations, fines will also be issued to persons found renting unlawful STVRS. Some renters have already been issued warnings.

The Salt Spring Island community continues to express concern about unlawful STVRs. Among these concerns are the eviction of long-term rental tenants so owners can profit from an unlawful commercial use, impacts on the availability of affordable rental housing, and the over-consumption of water, among others.

The Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee shares these concerns and have directed bylaw compliance and enforcement staff to take proactive measures to prevent unlawful STVR operations.

Unlawful STVRs are those that provide commercial guest accommodation in zones intended for residential use in a manner that does not comply with the island’s bed and breakfast regulations. Properties that rent out their entire dwelling, seasonal cottage or suite are not bed and breakfasts.

Last year, Islands Trust Bylaw Enforcement staff sent three letters to operators of unlawful STVRs requesting that they take steps to comply with the Land Use Bylaw. Only a few did so.

Vacation rental companies have been made aware that property owners using their services to advertise unlawful STVRs are facing fines. These companies have been invited to support the bylaw compliance process.

Salt Spring Island’s land use bylaws have long permitted operation of legitimate bed and breakfasts, recognizing the valuable role they play in supporting island livelihoods and the local tourism economy.

Unlawful STVR operators are advised to bring their operations into compliance with the island’s bed and breakfast regulations. If this cannot be done, operators can seek a Temporary Use Permit or apply for rezoning. Operating unlawfully with impunity is not an option.

STVR operators are advised to contact Bylaw Compliance and Enforcement at kkudyba@islandstrust.bc.ca immediately to discuss compliance options.

The writer is the bylaw compliance and enforcement manager for the Islands Trust.

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