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STRs dominate zoning bylaw discussions

STRs dominate zoning bylaw discussions

Sechelt’s recent steps to revamp its 35-year-old zoning rules show public concern highest around regulation of short-term rentals (STRs). At a Dec. 10 online discussion forum, most of the questions asked were about STRs. This was despite four other subject areas related to land use and zoning that District staff were seeking input on. Session host, Director of Planning Andrew Allen, commented that in online surveys conducted earlier on those five areas, the STR questionnaire also garnered the most responses.
Allen said he saw “a real divide” in the opinions expressed about increasing rules for STR use of properties under a new zoning bylaw. Currently, Sechelt regulates STRs through business licencing and not through zoning. At the forum, respondents pointed to the economic benefits of having this form of tourism accommodation available. Several questioned why additional regulations were needed. Others expressed concerns about the impacts that STR operations can have on adjacent properties and residential neighbourhoods. A number of those individuals indicated they supported rules being added in a new zoning bylaw to limit the use of properties as STRs.
One participant stated that allowing housing to be used for STRs negatively impacts the supply of rentals needed to house the community’s workforce. That view was countered by another caller, who expressed that many property owners choose the STR market over long term tenancies. He indicated that many STR units are “high-end” properties that would not be affordable market rentals. He also noted that some are kept as STRs to allow for occasional use by the owner’s family or friends.
Community consultation on updating the bylaw began on Oct. 7. While the renewal will update all areas of the zoning bylaw, the public consultation currently focuses on the areas of STRs, home-based businesses, Agricultural Land Reserve uses, urban agriculture and density.
Concerns related to density changes being proposed in the West Sechelt area were also discussed during the forum. One view was that the District needs to seriously consider the analysis offered by groups such as its Advisory Planning Commission and neighbourhood associations when looking at density changes.
At its busiest point, about 57 members of the public were connected to the online forum. Staff extended the event just past its one-hour timeframe to respond to the questions being submitted.
Input will continue to be received until early 2021, when staff plan to present a summary of what was heard to council. Members of the public are encouraged to send comments or questions to planning@sechelt.ca.
Pending council direction, a new bylaw will be drafted. The goal is to have the new zoning document in place by the end of 2021.
Connie Jordison

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