Chautauqua neighbours look out for each other, and they want to live in a neighbourhood where they can continue to do that.
But the proliferation of short-term rentals is jeopardizing all they hold dear about their ”storied area,” Chautauqua Residents’ Association member Brian Crow told councillors at Monday night’s planning meeting.
Chautauqua, he said, is “a close and mutually supportive group of people who deeply care about the well-being of their environment, their neighbourhood and each other.”
Neighbours pull together over issues of mutual concern, “whether they be assisting those confronting difficulties or developing sensible solutions to issues which have the potential to create an imbalance in our community.”
Crow spoke of neighbours looking out for each other. “Just in the past few weeks residents helped Margaret get needed medical care and assist with household errands when she broke her ankle slipping on the side of the street; shovelled snow for Ruth when she broke her arm; offered support to Stephanie and her family as they coped with the tragic loss of Shane; and have been providing assistance to Neil and Jody as they cope with a significant medical issue. In short, councillors – residents demonstrate that we care every day.”
The number of short-term rentals is “putting in jeopardy the critical balance between residents and visitors that has allowed us to maintain our amazing community, while at the same time affording visitors a great experience,” Crow said, adding the problem tipping the scale is the growth in short-term rental accommodations.
“Over the past several years this issue has expanded to the point that currently over 10 per cent of our homes are short-term rentals, representing somewhere in the neighbourhood of eight per cent of all STRs in NOTL. A minimal estimate indicates that STRs have displaced 40 to 50 residents from our valued community.”
Many long-term rentals have been converted to STRs, reducing the affordability and the availability for some to live here. The demand of STRs also adds to increased property costs, he said. “There is no question that we are experiencing a hollowing-out process due to the number of non-owner-occupied short-term rentals operating in our neighbourhood.”
Crow explained he is considering short-term rental accommodations to be “un-hosted homes being offered for very short-rental periods,” and even those licensed tend to house many visitors having little or no regard for the community.
He also referred to them as commercial establishments “that should be subjected to the identical criteria applied to all commercial enterprises in Niagara-on-the-Lake.”
Crow and the CRA are recommending that property taxes for such establishments be based on commercial rates, to slow the rate of growth.
Non-owner-occupied short-term rentals should be treated in the same manner as all other NOTL small business operations that currently do pay commercial property tax — the playing field must be level, Crow said. If provincial legislation doesn’t allow the town to charge commercial tax on residential-zoned housing, he suggested the town could set the annual licensing fee at the equivalent of the difference between commercial and residential tax.
He also said the municipal accommodation tax should apply to all un-hosted short-term rentals, and that a capped number of STRs be allowed in the neighbourhood, either per-street or per-area, with the town creating a formula for density in Chautauqua to determine the cap.
He is also looking for a cap to the number of guests based on the number of licensed bedrooms, or one car per licensed bedroom to the maximum number of onsite spaces.
And finally, he requested “strong enforcement with meaningful penalties to encourage street adherence to the rules. “It’s time that NOTL took definitive action to protect, preserve and grow our neighbourhoods.”
After some questions regarding zoning STRs commercial in order for them to pay commercial taxes, councillors voted to refer Crow’s requests to staff for a report.
Crow said after the meeting he looks forward to working with staff and council on solutions for Chautauqua’s challenges.