Letter to the editor – Saint Andrews short term rental by-law changes are misguided

Editor,

I am writing this letter to bring attention to the new by-laws for the Town of Saint Andrews, specifically regarding the new requirements for short term rental properties. Town council is looking to require significant new regulations and limitations on short term rental properties.

The by-law changes proposed would require all short term rental property owners to apply to have their properties rezoned from Serviced Residential (SR) to what is now being called Tourist Serviced Residential (TSR). This would include all homes that include at least one unit or bedroom being rented for less than 30 days in any given year such as for Airbnb, Homeaway/VRBO, B&B or other short term rental purposes.

Councillors have not provided details on which properties would be denied rezoning, requiring them to close and which properties would proceed with the rezoning, thus continuing their current short term rental.

They have alluded to a goal of restricting the total number of short term rentals in Saint Andrews, but have not provided details on the number in mind. There has been no information if current units would be grandfathered in and allowed to continue, or if council will decline applications once the target is met based on a first come/first served basis.

Council is also discussing a new permit process whereby there would be rules in place such as a requirement of a two night stay, fire marshal inspections, side yard and parking minimums, quiet time regulations etc. These permit requirements have not been specifically outlined as yet and it remains a mystery how restrictive or difficult it will be to meet their requirements.

I feel council has not been forthcoming with details of the new requirements, nor have they been proactive in informing property owners who would be most affected.

I think the current process not only lacks clarity and detail, but is misguided. Having to rezone properties is above and beyond the norm for short term rental property owners. Saint Andrews has had a goal of building tourism, supporting businesses and jobs in town.

With that comes the short term rentals needed to support the tourism created. Restricting the number of short term rentals in town will not directly increase the number of long term rentals available. The town will have to come up with other ideas to encourage new development of long term rental buildings and provide incentives such as tax breaks, assistance with utilities, and perhaps using the new rental levy for a fund to work toward their goal of increasing the availability of long term rentals.

Those residents with current short term rentals should acquaint themselves with the new by-law. This can be found on the links on the Town of St. Andrews website. Letters of concern should be addressed to the town councillors as soon as possible as the by-laws heads into first reading this month.

Joanne Carney,

Saint Andrews, NB