By Korie Marshall

People renting out short term vacation homes in Valemount will need to apply for a Temporary Use Permit before receiving their business licence for 2014.

A number of short term vacation rental properties have been operating within the Village boundary for some time, although the zoning bylaw doesn’t currently allow for that use in residential zones. A report to Council says the Village has not received any complaints about short term vacation rental properties, and development within Valemount has been encouraged by their operation. The issue has been referred to the Advisory Planning Commission, but their feedback is expected to take some time, as they are currently considering a number of other issues, so Council has agreed that a Temporary Use Process is a good option in the meantime.

Diane Fowler is the first to apply for permits for two properties she manages under Whisper Creek Cabin Rentals. Fowler says for some people, renting out their second home when they are not using it can be a great way to help pay for the investment, and that is not only good for the owners, but for the community as well. Her husband Shawn Fowler of Whisper Creek Log Homes says the homes he builds bring property tax dollars to the Village, and having the option of renting out the home when it’s not in use by the owner makes it more affordable. Also, he notes that when the rental guests arrive, they often spend a lot of money at the grocery store and other businesses in the village. He says they often get people who sled in Blue River or McBride, and used to stay there, but now prefer to stay in Valemount, because they appreciate the quality of the homes the Fowlers offer, and the quality of service and local knowledge.

A short term vacation home essentially offers all the comforts of a family home, and gives vacationers another alternative to a hotel or bed and breakfast. People renting a short term vacation home often stay over a weekend or a week, and use the home as if it were their own second home, while taking advantage of recreation opportunities in the area.

Diane Fowler says she has received requests to rent out her properties for longer than a month, but she doesn’t feel it makes sense for their business.

Vacation homes are also different from a bed and breakfast, because the owner is not staying in the same house – it is not someone’s primary residence. And they are different from a long term rental (longer than a month) because of rules in the tenancy act, and because a vacation home offers soft furnishings, like linens and towels, that are not generally offered even in a furnished rental home. That also means there is more work involved in running a short term vacation home – greeting guests, explaining amenities, cleaning and laundry after they’ve gone – which could mean work for the owners if they live nearby, or it could mean employment opportunities for locals.

One vacation home in Sun Peaks offers two units complete with kitchens, pool tables, hot tubs, and bedrooms for 12 people each, which could mean 24 people and a dozen cars on one residential lot at a time. A report to Valemount Council noted some challenges experienced by other communities with short term vacation rentals including noise and security issues; safety, fire hazard and parking issues due to overcrowding; increased cost of housing for locals because of inflated real estate values; and a potentially unfair tax advantage of using residential real estate as a business.

The Fowlers agree that parking can be an issue, which is why they don’t use some of their properties as rentals, and why it is important to ensure homes are not overbooked – if the home has four beds, that means four or eight people, not 12 or 20. Other issues like safety and fire hazard issues they say are addressed by properly enforced building codes, and by regulations from Destination BC, the provincial organization that accredits tourism and accommodation facilities.

They also feel it is important for them to manage the properties locally, because they want to be able to keep an eye on what is going on, and to ensure their guests are being respectful of their properties and their neighbours. They say they understand the Village may want or need to regulate some aspects, and they are willing to talk to the Advisory Planning Commission about their experiences.

The report to Council also noted benefits experienced by other communities, including increased investment return for property owners, more accommodation options for visitors, positive intermingling of visitors with residents, development and job creation, and the offset of costs of the property for part-time residents who may want to rent out their property while they are not using it.

During discussions at Council on Nov. 12, Councillor Latimer asked how the Regional District is handling this type of rentals, and Mayor McCracken, who is also on the Regional District Board, said they have legislated where vacation rentals can be located, which is currently being tested in court.

Braden Hutchins, Deputy Corporate Officer for the Village told Council during the meeting that other businesses currently running short term vacation rentals inside the village boundary have been notified they will need a Temporary Use Permit before they are approved for their 2014 business license.
A public hearing for the Temporary Use Permit is scheduled for December 10, at 6:45 in Council chambers, before the regular council meeting.