Port McNeill council agreed to have the Planning Advisory Committee review AirBnB’s and give them a recommendation on how to proceed. (Tyson Whitney file photo of council - North Island Gazette)

Council debates AirBnB style accommodations in Port McNeill

The Planning Advisory Committee will review the issue of AirBnB’s in Port McNeill.

The future of AirBnB style accommodations in Port McNeill was at the top of the agenda at last week’s (Dec. 16) meeting of council.

Local residents Barry and Sherri McCulloch presented a letter to council requesting the town update their zoning regulations and reconsider a recent decision by town officials that prevents them from continuing to operate their B&B style home business.

In their letter, the McCulloch’s explained how they recently received written notice from the Town of Port McNeill, stating that they would no longer be allowed to operate their bed and breakfast. The McCulloch’s noted that previous to this notice they had been able to purchase business licenses in 2018 and 2019 and had rented out part of their home to travellers from around the world.

“I have had guests from seven different European countries as well as from across Canada and the United States,” explained Barry McCulloch in the letter, adding, “Travellers do not always want to stay in hotels. These guests are looking for a stay in a Canadian home.”

The letter goes on to explain: “Port McNeill is looking to diversify its economy and the North Island is a hidden gem that is beginning to be discovered. The sharing economy has come to the North Island and Airbnb is part of that.”

Staff noted that currently, short-term rentals are typically operated within a single-family dwelling in residential zones and allow homeowners to provide vacation rentals.

The definition for zoning purposes, defines a bed and breakfast as, ‘an owner occupied single-family dwelling containing rooms without cooking facilities intended primarily for the sleeping accommodation of the travelling public, with breakfast meals being prepared and served to guests by means of the common kitchen and dining facilities used by the owner-occupier.’

The inclusion of a meal and where and how that meal is served along with the owner occupied requirement is where many AirBnB style accommodations could run afoul of the current zoning regulations.

Staff went on to report that over the last two years, the town has addressed complaints on several short-term rentals.

Coun. Shelley Downey confirmed that she too had received letters of concern “regarding parking, traffic and city services to the property” and recommended following staff advice and refer the zoning matter to the Planning Advisory Committee.

Downey also mentioned that Port McNeill is not alone in attempting to find the proper mix of tourist style accommodation, noting how Tofino decided to set aside specific sections of their town as AirBnB designated zones.

Coun. Derek Koel explained how other communities have taken a property tax approach by applying business mill rates to B&B properties. He also wondered if the official Community Plan might be the better place to address these zoning issues.

In the end, council went with the staff recommendation to have the Planning Advisory Committee review and provide council with recommendations on how to proceed. The committee is scheduled to meet in early January and the meeting is open to the public.

In other news, council meetings switch from their previous Monday night schedule to Tuesdays beginning in January and the first meeting of 2020 will be Jan. 14, at 7 p.m.

– Bill McQuarrie article

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