When it comes to regulating the world of short-term accommodations (STAs) within Greater Napanee, the proverbial horse bolted before council had the chance to close the barn door.
At their last meeting council took real steps towards requiring property owners to purchase a license to operate a STA business, but there’s still ‘t’s to cross and ‘i’s to dot on the by-law. If they needed any advance warning of what was coming, council needed to simply gaze across the bay to Prince Edward County to see the tidal waves of STAs that would soon find its way onto this side of the bridge or ferry.
Coming up with an all-encompassing by-law takes time and the proper homework needs to be done before anything is etched into town law. But the problem is council has been talking about this matter as far back as 2020 and still nothing is in place. The discussion around the virtual horseshoe at the time was about how the town needed to get ahead of STAs-to be proactive rather than reactive. Suffice to say now two years later, that boat has left the harbour. During that time the business of STAs has done nothing but grow to the point that the town really has no idea how many are currently operating within its boundaries. At this point they’re left to rely on the honesty of those who operate them to come forward and register-with little incentive to do so. Until a penalty is in place for ‘not’ registering, as it stands right now they’re being asked to purchase a license with little in return. There is perhaps the marketing angle of being able to say they’re ‘fully licensed with the township’, which may or may not make them stand out on a website. It’s hard to imagine someone from out of town looking to rent a home for the weekend would concern themselves with that, but it couldn’t hurt.
It’s actually the matter of what out-of-towners concern themselves with that make STAs a potential problem. A person who lives in a home year-round is likely to be more considerate of their next door neighbour if they see them every day, perhaps so much so that they’re on a first name basis. It’s a little different when someone rolls in for a weekend getaway looking to have some fun. That’s not to say every STA renter is going to blast loud music at all hours of the night and leave an unsightly mess, but it’s fair to say the potential is there.
Although the opportunity to get ahead of the matter has come and gone, council still needs to get it right. If regulated properly, STAs can be a huge boon to local tourism. It just needs to done in a way that doesn’t hinder the quality of life for the permanent residents.
While there’s unlikely to be a solution that completely satisfies both sides, ideally they can get close enough so both guests and residents can live in relative harmony and enjoy the surroundings that make this place somewhere people would want to spend their vacation.