Islands Trust taking short-term vacation rentals to court

Sounder News

Wednesday, September 4 2019

This past week, the Islands Trust sent out press releases saying they will be authorizing court action be taken to deal with two illegal short-term vacation rental properties - one on Salt Spring Island and a second on Galiano Island.

As of press time, there had been no involvement of any short-term vacation rental (STVR) files from Gabriola Island.

Warren Dingman, Islands Trust Bylaw Compliance and Enforcement Manager, said that “there are relatively few complaints regarding STVRs on Gabriola, and relatively few files compared to other islands, and Islands Trust is not currently taking court action against any Gabriola STVR operations.”

In the case of the Galiano file, the Islands Trust says the property in question (located on Warbler Road) is being used as a short-term vacation rental and as a commercial resort-type accommodation for yoga retreats.

On Galiano, the use of an entire house for an STVR without the premises being used as a residence is prohibited. The use of residential property for fully-catered resort-type accommodation is also prohibited. The island’s Official Community Plan and Land Use Bylaw only permit short-term vacation rentals in lawful cottages and suites, and as a home occupation that is accessory to residential use while the operator is living on the property.

According to the Trust, since January 2019, Islands Trust Bylaw Compliance and Enforcement staff have notified the owner of the property on multiple occasions that this operation is unlawful. Despite repeated requests to the operator to cease operations, the STVR continues to be active and advertised online. 

Dingman said, “The property in question has been advertising eight bedrooms for short-term vacation rental use. 

“It is the largest short-term vacation rental operation on the island and there is no full-time resident on the property. In addition, there is evidence that the property is operating unlawfully as a resort and a yoga retreat. 

“Bed and breakfast and short-term vacation rental operations are permitted on Galiano Island, but with a limit of three bedrooms. An operation advertising and utilizing more than twice that number is beyond what was anticipated as a home occupation.”

Dan Rogers, Chair of the Galiano Island Local Trust Committee (LTC) and Chair of the Gabriola Local Trust Committee, said, “Galiano Island residents have growing concerns about the availability of housing for island residents and the impact of short-term vacation rentals on the housing stock.

“We’ve been made aware of very serious water issues in the neighbourhood affected, including reports of groundwater shortages, with some residents drilling new wells. We are already dealing with the effects of climate change on the islands, and non-permitted STVRs are an added strain on island resources.”

On Salt Spring Island, the Trust is authorizing court action against the owner of an unlawful short-term vacation rental located on an Upper Ganges Road property. 

The island’s LTC is seeking a court order to stop the use of the property as an STVR, which is contrary to the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee Land Use Bylaw. 

In response to the ongoing housing crisis on Salt Spring, the Local Trust Committee says it has taken a proactive approach on unlawful STVRs, which are potentially removing accommodation from the long-term housing market. 

Peter Luckham, Chair of the Salt Spring Island LTC, said, “Islands Trust has heard from the public about growing concerns over the impacts of STVRs on their lives and the community at large.

“In addition to the very real concerns that these unlawful STVRs are affecting the amount of long-term rental housing available for island residents, we’ve also heard about increased noise, problems with traffic and parking, and water issues from these operations. This is why the LTC has requested that bylaw officers take a proactive approach when dealing with STVRs.”

According to the Trust, the house in question is a single family dwelling. The owner does not live on site, and the property has been managed by a third party individual who manages several STVRs. 

The use of a single family dwelling for the purpose of a short-term vacation rental is prohibited on Salt Spring. 

The island’s Land Use Bylaw only permits temporary tourist accommodation in single family dwellings in some zones, if it is provided as a home-based bed and breakfast accommodation that is accessory to a residential use and operated by a person permanently residing on the property.

The Trust says the property has been the subject of numerous complaints dating back to 2017. 

Islands Trust Bylaw Compliance and Enforcement staff have notified the owner of the property, along with their agent, on multiple occasions. Despite repeated requests to the operator of the STVR to cease operations, the STVR continues to be active. 

David Marlor, Islands Trust Director of Local Planning Services, said, “We’ve had numerous complaints from the public regarding the property in question. 

“There’s also evidence that the property is operating unlawfully as a vacation rental and is often occupied by vacationers. Bed and breakfasts and other lawful, home-based businesses are required to comply with the Salt Spring Island Land Use Bylaw, and it is a reasonable expectation that competing temporary tourist accommodations should also comply with those bylaws and other regulations.”