County of Prince Edward bylaw officials watching for open STAs

(Gazette file photo)
JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

What has been a growing concern among many in Prince Edward County since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Canada is going to be addressed on an ongoing basis by the municipality.

One hasn’t had to look too far over the past weeks to find Short Term Accommodations (STA) being used by out-of-town visitors who apparently don’t understand terminology such as “non-essential travel” and “social distancing”

But even worse than those that would flock to Prince Edward County in spite of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the multitude of federal and provincial directives to “stay at home” are those STA owners who continued to flout warnings and put dollars in front of community well-being by taking these bookings.

That unscrupulous practice is no longer acceptable in Prince Edward County and in the Province of Ontario.

The Government of Ontario announced last week revisions to the essential workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic, restricting access to short-term accommodations (STAs), seasonal trailer parks, and recreational campgrounds.

Under the revised list from the province, “Every person who provides short term rentals in rental accommodations shall ensure that any rentals booked after April 4, 2020 are only provided to individuals who are in need of housing during the emergency period.” 

The Subsection does not apply in respect of hotels, motels and student residences.

Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Local municipalities including the County of Prince Edward have been haranguing the province about addressing those STA owners that weren’t listening to reason that perhaps now, during the onslaught of a global pandemic, wasn’t the best time to be booking accommodations in communities where COVID-19 concerns are at an all time high.

County of Prince Edward Mayor Steve Ferguson thanked the provincial government for their leadership on this issue as well as the STA owners who complied with the wishes of his office and county council to voluntarily hit pause on their business.

“We commend the province for listening to our Council and other municipalities who have called for measures limiting all non-essential travel to our communities during this time of crisis,” County of Prince Edward Mayor Steve Ferguson said. “Many accommodation providers and operators have already heeded our call to cancel all bookings out of concern for the health and safety of our community. I want to thank them for their ongoing cooperation. We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

Under the provincial order, STA rental bookings after April 4, 2020 are only allowed if they are provided to individuals who are in need of housing during the emergency period. STA operators must email stalicences@pecounty.on.ca and notify the municipality if they are operating their accommodations in a way that conforms to the provincial order. Offering an STA to individuals in need is entirely voluntary and operators are under no obligation to do so. All other use of an STA is prohibited until the provincial order is lifted.

In addition, the province ordered the closure of seasonal trailer parks and recreational campgrounds. The provincial government recognizes that some parks and campgrounds might have opened early to accommodate returning “snowbirds.” For Ontarians whose only Canadian residence is at one of these seasonal trailer parks or campgrounds, they are permitted to continue their occupancy and complete their mandatory self-isolation as required by the federal government on March 25, 2020 under the Quarantine Act. People who fall into the above category must notify the County at bylaw@pecounty.on.ca. All other uses of these facilities are prohibited until the provincial order is lifted.

In order to ensure these measures are enforced, the public should remain vigilant and report any STA activity they believe contravenes the provincial order.

County by-law officers are enforcing the provincial order. If you believe an accommodation provider or park/campground operator is violating the provincial order, please call 613.476.2148 extension 1023 or email info@pecounty.on.ca.

Penalties and  fines levied to individuals or businesses not obeying the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA) are stiff.

Failing to correctly identify oneself carries a fine of $750 for failure to comply with an order made under the EMCPA; or $1,000 for obstructing any person in exercising a power if a provincial offences officer issues a ticket. In addition, failure to comply with an emergency order could carry punishments of up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual, $500,000 for a director of a corporation, or $10,000,000 for a corporation itself if a provincial offences officer charges the individual by issuing a summons.

These penalties apply in addition to the penalties for breaching other emergency orders.

The provincial measures went into effect as of Saturday, April 4, 2020 at 11:59 pm and will remain in place for 14 days, with the possibility of an extension as the situation evolves.