Behind closed doors – 18 short term rental owners lawyer up in effort to pressure Charlottetown city council
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (06/21/2021)
PEI Fight For Affordable Housing
81 Prince Street, Charlottetown
902 894 4573
Charlottetown, PEI – On June 14, 2021, the Mayor of Charlottetown and all 10 City Councillors received an email from D. Spencer Campbell at Stewart McKelvey on behalf of 18 commercial short-term rental (STR) operators on Prince Edward Island. Attached to that email was a letter pressuring the Council to grandfather STRs that do not comply with existing City Zoning & Development Bylaws (specifically s. 5.11 of the Bylaw) into future regulations. The City’s CAO, Planning Department staff & legal counsel were not copied on this email.
Mr. Campbell insists his clients’ commercial STR properties are legal because they had Tourist Establishment licenses from the province’s tourism department. If these units are grandfathered into a new City bylaw these operators will face no consequences for breaking existing municipal regulations, and their investments will be protected even as people continue to struggle for housing options in Charlottetown.
The PEI Fight for Affordable Housing is disappointed and dismayed by the actions of these 18 commercial STR operators. If these operators are so confident that their establishments comply with all applicable provincial and municipal laws, they should be making their arguments in the public eye. They had the perfect opportunity to do so at the May 17, 2021 public meeting or at any time over the past two years during this very public discussion.
In fact, Mr. Campbell confirms his clients “did not have City approval,” to operate their commercial STRs, and states that the Province has been “aware that the City has not been issuing Municipal approvals to STRs but have still chosen to renew these STRs on an annual basis.”
As of November 28, 2019, the PEI Tourism Industry Act has provided the following in s. 2 (3.1):
“A tourism operator is responsible for compliance with any other applicable enactment, including a municipal bylaw, in respect of the operation of the tourism establishment.”
As well, it clearly states on the 2019 Accommodation Operator Licensing form that
“The tourism operator/owner/lessee is responsible for compliance with all other Federal and provincial laws, including all municipal bylaws, in respect to the operation of the tourism establishment. If the property is within a municipality boundary, please provide municipal approval for this application.”
These operators knew – or ought to have known – that they required municipal approval to run their commercial Tourist Accommodation operations but continued to operate without that approval.
Mr. Campbell’s letter notes that on March 9, 2020, City Council passed a resolution whereby it supported “Option 4” for regulating STRs, which would permit STRs in any principal residence including apartments, with allowance for commercial STRs in zones that permit tourist accommodations. What the letter fails to mention is that the five regulatory options for STRs only became public at the very same Council meeting where this Resolution was passed. Charlottetown residents had no chance to read the report by Dr. David Wachsmuth on the impact of STRs in our City, or to comment on the five options before Councillors cast their votes. Now that the public has spoken loudly and clearly, the PEI Fight For Affordable Housing calls on the City Council to rescind the resolution passed on March 9, 2020 and direct the Planning Department to present a new option for public consideration, based on the public’s feedback.
In contrast to these STR operators, the PEI Fight For Affordable Housing gathered support for owner-occupied only bylaws by engaging with the public and gathering 918 signatures (625 from Charlottetown residents). We presented these signatures, again publicly, to Mayor Brown and Councillor Jankov.
This email and letter to our Mayor and City Councillors is yet another effort by commercial STR operators to continue skirting the laws that are meant to protect housing supply in Charlottetown, and to influence housing policy from the shadows. These operators prefer to apply political and now legal pressure on City decision-makers behind the scenes rather than engage in a fair and open public discussion with the rest of the people of Charlottetown about the City’s STR policy. This is undemocratic.
We will be watching the Planning Department, Mayor, and Councillors closely to see if they will put people over profit, vote to rescind Scenario 4,and refuse to grandfather any STR operations that have failed to comply with existing City Bylaws when an STR regulatory regime is finally approved.
The PEI Fight For Affordable Housing is a grassroots group of volunteers working to build a tenant movement on PEI. We advocate for the tenant community representing our collective needs to all levels of government.
Tenant Network Coordinator
Office: 902 894 4573