Should illegal vacation rentals be granted a grace period to shut down when their applications fail?
By David F. Rooney
City Council has rejected an attempt by the owners of an illegal vacation rental to seek leave to apply for licence to operate it.
John and Heather Pallas had been operating an unlicensed full-home vacation rental at 2297 Airport Way. They applied for a license last year and their application was considered during a public hearing held on May 10. It was heavily opposed by neighbours and was subsequently turned down. (Please click here to read our original story and view the video of that public hearing.)
However, they contunued operating their vacation rental and sought permission to reapply and were turned down by Council. (You can watch Council’s very interesting discussion of this vacation rental by activating the YouTube player below at the 17:41 mark.)
Councillor Gary Sulz asked why they were allowed to continue operation and Mayor Mark McKee replied:
“I’ll jump in and answer that,” he said. “Our attitude here at City Hall is that we want illegal vacation rentals going through the process (to become licensed and legal) and this couple here… disagreed with Council’s decision and they waited the minimum amount of time and reapplied.”
McKee said his attitude is that if an illegal operation is actively seeking to become legal, they should be permitted to continue in operation until Council has reached a decision.
“When it comes to the Council table and Council decides to turn it down, a lot of these vacation rentals have people that have booked holidays and are coming here and the day after they have been turned down do we want to tell them they have to stop operating?”
He said any reasonable person would grant them a reasonable period of grace during which they can discharge their responsibilities to guests.
Councillor Linda Nixon said the Pallas’ neighbourhood spoke very clearly when they turned spoke out on May 10 and she would not support the re-application. Councillor Aaron Orlando said he had toured the house and understood the owners’ contention that it was well-suited as a vacation rental. However, he said he very clearly remembered their neighbours’ opposition and did not think anything had really changed since last May. Councillor Gary Sulz said that “if the neighbourhood doesn’t want it, where do we draw the line?”
The application was denied. However, Council may want to consider setting a formal period of grace during which vacation rentals that have been denied can fairly and reasonably be expected to shut down their operations.
In other news, Council has agreed to write a letter of support for biologist Giles Shearing’s application to become director of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program’s Columbia Region board.
Council also agreed to refer to staff a letter and petition from 10 residents of Beruschi and Pratico Road who are concerned about their water, which they say contains three times the amount of rust allowed under Canadian law.
And finally the Business License Report shows that there are now 979 businesses licenses in town, up from 941 at the end of February last year. Oh, one of those new licenses was issued to Dr. Von Houligan’s Performance Circus, which will be performing at Queen Elizabeth Park on July 21. You can find out more by clicking here to visit its website and here to visit its Facebook page.