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Revelstoke explores allowing vacation rentals in all residential areas under ‘sub-zone’ concept

Online peer-to-peer vacation rental platforms like airbnb (pictured) have made renting out your property easy and inexpensive. The City of Revelstoke’s new vacation rental strategy calls for a sub-zone plan that would require OK from council and likely your neighbours before you can legally rent your residential property.   - Airbnb website screenshot
Online peer-to-peer vacation rental platforms like airbnb (pictured) have made renting out your property easy and inexpensive. The City of Revelstoke’s new vacation rental strategy calls for a sub-zone plan that would require OK from council and likely your neighbours before you can legally rent your residential property.
— image credit: Airbnb website screenshot

City of Revelstoke Development Services department is proposing allowing vacation rentals in all Revelstoke residential zones, but individual property owners will have to overcome several barriers to get the ‘sub-zoning’ approval necessary. These barriers include input from neighbours through a hearing process, sub-zoning approval from city council, a special business licence and physical requirements like parking spaces and fire safety equipment.

All the details of the plan have not yet been spelled out, but this new, general policy direction got approval at the Development Services Committee April 10 meeting and will now head to city council for consideration. If they get the OK from council, city staff will develop the specifics.

What’s new here is a change in approach. In 2013, the city’s planning department proposed a ‘special zone’ vacation rental plan that laid out specific streets where vacation rentals would be allowed. An overlay map focused potential vacation rentals on arterial roads, and in some neighbourhoods in Upper Arrow Heights, near Revelstoke Mountain Resort. However, that plan never got past early drafts before being scrapped during a 2013 overhaul of the planning department.

The new plan proposes allowing vacation rentals more-or-less anywhere, but proposes giving neighbours and council significant veto power.

The plan is based on a sub-zone concept. Basically, owners of a residentially-zoned property would apply for a sub-zoning (otherwise known as a ‘use’). That ‘special use’ zoning allows for the vacation rental.

Development Services department manager Dean Strachan developed the proposal. “This plan is designed around giving council as much authority as possible and as much autonomy on each application as possible,” he told the development services committee at their April 10 meeting.

In response to a question, he said he felt it’s premature to develop an over-arching plan for vacation rentals in Revelstoke. “At this point I think it’s almost jumping over three steps to take it to that level,” Strachan said, adding the benefit of this plan is to see how vacation rental applications progress over time, then use that as a guideline for a more comprehensive plan.

Strachan said the plan is to charge a significant business licence fee – he mentioned $200 at the April 10 meeting – as an example of the cost range. Another concept is limiting the number of days a property can be used as a vacation rental in a given year.

Provisions could be included to revoke the vacation rental sub-zone status if it’s not used for that purpose for a period of time.

So, what happens next? Council will likely get a report on the general direction of the plan in the coming weeks. After that, Development Services department staff will develop the details in the coming weeks and months, and then it comes back to council for further consideration, and adoption.

If you want to have your say on the plan, you’ll need to contact city staff and/or city council between now and then.

The change is part of a new zoning review strategy revealed by Strachan at the same meeting. Put simply, the Development Services department plans to overhaul the city’s zoning bylaws on a piece-by-piece basis, instead of as part of a comprehensive plan.

The City of Revelstoke tried and failed to implement a ‘Unified Development Bylaw’ between about 2009 and 2013, but the novel system fell short of implementation over concerns including cost, legal exposure and changes in the macroeconomic climate that stalled development in the city.

 

 

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