Greg Dell is leaving one post and beginning another — he is working on behalf of short-term rental operators to get a reduction in the 2020 fee increases.
Having recently moved from St. Davids to the Old Town, he has given up his post as president of the St. Davids Ratepayers Association. His next mission — an appeal to the Town over rising licensing fees.
The cost per room has gone up to $325, an increase of $207, and licensed owners are angry the increase was approved for this year’s budget without any consultation, says Dell.
The fee increase is intended to cover the cost of two new bylaw officers to enforce regulations regarding short-term rentals and support for noise and licensing complaints.
Licensed B&B owners believe they are being punished for a problem not of their making, says Dell, and are also angry about the short timeline, with a decision that was made in December to be implemented this month.
There is an appeal timeframe, he says, and a notice of an appeal has already been sent to the Town.
He does not own a short-term rental himself, but has been asked to represent them as an authorized agent in their appeal to the Town.
“B&B owners were not part of any discussion,” he says. “They acknowledge there may be a problem with unlicensed short-term rentals, but our position is that the legal, licensed establishments complying with all rules are being forced to pay for the shortcomings of other, illegal operations, and the penalty is unacceptable.”
Other fees were increased by the cost of living, he said, but not licensing fees, which are almost three times what they were. “The licensed operators are really angry. They never had a chance. They were blind-sided, and this is unacceptable.”
The issues of unlicensed rentals and inadequate enforcement have been going on for a decade, he says, and licensed owners “are sympathetic to the problem, and want to be part of the solution. We think there is a way to solve this, through a combination of better enforcement, education and fees. A small increase would have been acceptable, or a graduated increase, but not this.”
Lord Mayor Betty Disero says the fee increase has already been approved by council. The Town needs to provide more services in the form of enforcement of short-term rental bylaws, and full cost recovery is the way to pay for that, as is the case in other municipalities she says.
There have been several public discussions about the increase, she added. “It wasn’t hidden from anybody.”
The fee hike could be reopened for discussion by a member of council, she says, but councillors were being responsive to a request from short-term rental operators for protection from unlicensed establishments.
At her first Coffee Break session to meet with residents Tuesday, Dell and a contingent of short-term rental owners stopped by to talk about the fee increase.
Disero explained going after unlicensed establishments is difficult — the Town hasn’t had much luck taking them to court, and if there is a fine levied, it goes to the Province.
But she promised to talk to town staff about hiring only one bylaw officer instead of two, and to meet for further discussions with the short-term rental owners about possible solutions.