Amid calls for transparency, Council puts ban on second-unit STAs to bed

(Gazette file photo)

 

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

 

Prince Edward County Council have voted to rescind a proposed zoning bylaw amendment that would have prohibited second-unit dwellings utilized as short term accommodations.

The contentious motion was likely doomed from the start as such a manoeuvre likely violated Ontario’s Planning Act as thee Zoning Bylaw Amendment failed to allow for public consultation and input.

The amendment to the new bylaw was proposed by Councillor Jamie Forrester at the July 17th Public Planning Meeting where he proposed a ban on second-unit dwellings being used as an STA.

“We have a problem with STA’s. Second units are not being used as intended,” said Forrester. “I want to make clear to the general public what my intention was-I’m not trying to stop somebody from fixing up a barn so that they can rent it out for low cost accommodations. My goal is to stop the building of more STAs in the future.

Prince Edward County has seen a proliferation of STAs in recent years, the likes of which have contributed to the county’s affordable housing crisis, according to a recent McGill University study.

The STA Bylaw, ratified this past June, is apparently intended to curb this trend. The bylaw still allows for whole-home STAs within a specified density per neighbourhood.

County staff recommended that council rescind the ban on second-unit dwellings.

Opposing the amendment put forth by Forrester was Sophiasburgh Councillor Bill Roberts.

“It’s important for people to realize people around the horseshoe are trying to do their best, but I am going to support the staff’s motion,” said Roberts. “Before the July 17th meeting we told traditional B&B owners that we would not make any changes to bylaw until having a full year under our belt,” stated Roberts, adding, “If we were not to rescind this, what we would be doing is to advantage whole-home STAs with absentee owners, which defies the logic of the whole process”.

Another point brought forth by Councillor Roberts was that the motion to ban second-unit dwellings as STAs was brought forth without public transparency and due process.

“Those affected by the planning meeting of July 17th had no way of knowing what was coming up for discussion or that there would be such a critical discussion or decision. There was no public notice to that effect,” stated Roberts.

Speaking on behalf of those who would own or operate a second-unit STA was Dale Mugford, who emailed his deputation to council. Mugford is in the process of building a second-unit dwelling on his property, where he resides full-time.

“At no time during the process of consultation and public input, including draft regulation and final passed regulation was it put forward that second units, where the primary unit is owner-occupied should not be included in acceptable accommodation,” said Mugford.

Since beginning construction to complete a second-unit STA on his property, Mugford has invested considerable time and money on an investment he hoped, “could well exceed $1 million in our lifetime.”

“Since early spring, acting on council’s previously passed regulations, we have invested over $80,000 in permitted renovations, as well as a dedicated septic bed and tank to ensure that our second unit would meet or exceed all building code and county bylaw requirements, and be eligible for short term accommodation,” Mugford explained.

Mugford further iterated he believed his future second-unit dwelling would be a “model example” of how they can benefit both property owners and the county in general.

Harkening back to Councillor Roberts cry for more transparency on such decisions, Mugford was critical in his deputation of any legislative body having governance over who should stay at his property and for how long.

“What does it matter whether someone stays for six months, six weeks, or six days? An agenda to increase the availability of long-term accommodations should not be by-law downloaded onto homeowners to fulfill,” asserted Mugford.

Councillor Maynard also spoke to Forrester’s proposed ban.

“The intent of the motion was for new units only. It was never intended to define existing or in progress STAs. This goes back further than 2017. The STA issue didn’t have the same importance that it does now,” stated Maynard.

“Since the province has changed the restriction on the size, especially in rural areas, you could build an unlimited second unit-not a granny suite anymore but two homes on one property. It’s difficult to see how it makes things more affordable for people. If you’re putting a lot of money into building an STA, you’re probably not worried about paying your mortgage,” she continued.

Mayor Steve Ferguson spoke succinctly to the need for credibility, echoing several sentiments heard throughout the evening.

“I’m not going to enter into redundancies for the sake of doing just that but a few words really struck me this evening. The word ‘contradictory,’ ‘misunderstanding,’ and ‘credibility’ have been used,” he said, adding, “I am not in favour of decisions made on the fly. They lead to misunderstanding as has happened here. They lead to contradictory opinions and certainly affect our credibility, because without public consultation and listening to how our constituents want to express themselves, we’re not really making informed decisions.”