This is a letter sent from a B and B owner in Oliver – to Town Council
I want to take this opportunity to provide some feed back to the council regarding ‘itinerant’ accommodations within the town, as recently viewed on Oliver Daily News, and some of the inequities your current policies have created.
Within the zoning, RS-x the present bylaws, allow,
Secondary suites section 6.7
Bed and Breakfast section 6.12
Carriage houses 6.10
There is no current wording specifically for accommodations such as VRBO or airBnb, however, either could be incorporated, as written, as there is no mention of the time frame for which the identified classifications are occupied, ie, nightly, weekly or monthly. The town has identified 24 properties presumably on VRBO or airBnB. The perceived concern is that
these properties will adversely impact the town, neighbourhood or violate the zoning bylaws or reduce the availability of long term rental accommodation. I disagree with all of above, except perhaps the situation where a person purchases a house or apartment, chooses not to live in it, and decides to rent it as an unoccupied owner property on VRBO or airBnB.
I believe this move by council is motivated by the unusual set of circumstances that have arisen in Vancouver. Oliver is NOT Vancouver. We have operated our suite for several seasons. We do not benefit from year round demand. Our season, at best, is April to the end of October. We only achieve peak occupancy July and Aug. Thus, the chance of an ‘investor’ purchasing a property to operate ‘solely’ as an unoccupied rental are slim to none. The demand just isn’t there.
With regard to noise and disrupting the neighbourhood, I see NO difference between this sort of occupancy type, and any of the other allowed variants. I can assure you that we have NEVER had any issues with our guests making unruly noise, or disturbing the neighbourhood. Quite the contrary, within our street we have had numerous issues with tenants in long term rentals occupying a single house. You can be assured that we, as owner occupiers, would be the first to act upon any disturbances, should something occur. We HAVE complied with the town’s request to lodge a $750 deposit to cover ‘town costs’ to react to complaints. I believe this is totally unnecessary and the money should be refunded. Do you require the same of all the registered B and B owners? What about all those people who have long term rentals in their houses? Do you even know how many of these there are?
Treatment of all in a fair and equitable manner is an important element in the accommodation business in our community. It is council’s job to ensure this occurs. I believe that the existing bylaws manage the situations without any need to adopt any draconian measures.
As an outcome of the investigations by the town to identify VRBO and AirBnB accommodations, in September, 2018, we were double assessed our sewer charge on our utility bill. The extra charge of $64.50 per quarter was listed as ‘commercial’. This is blatantly unfair. And I object. The policy change has NOT been thought through properly. So, we are operating a part time guest accommodation. Yes, we are making some money.
Is council charging ALL B an B operators this additional charge?
– All those who have leased out the basements or other parts of their houses?
-ALL who have carriage houses or secondary buildings in an RS-x zoned area?
- All of these operators are making money. So, why are we being singled out?
What about the logical extension to include a very large multi-generational house? It seems that this unilateral action was taken because of the ‘apparent’ increased load on the sewer
system. I would point out that we OCCASIONALLY accommodate two guests, yet, when we had our three children, there were a total of 5 in the dwelling PERMANENTLY, yet this was charged as domestic. Something doesn’t make any sense here.
The Way Forward:
As a result, I am proposing an alternative, more transparent, fair and equitable system to deal with the sewer charging component in the town budget. From the town website and annual reports, 2017, 2518 houses are on sewer, 1,888 cubic feet of sewerage is handled per day, the revenue to service the sewer system is $1.02 million.
At present a fixed, $64.50 per lot per quarter is assessed. The house opposite us has one senior, a house in Okanagan street has 4 plus a basement suite with one renter, a B and B on Tulameen street has two people plus whoever stays. Should the senior pay as much? Is there a fairer way for all? Is there a better way? Yes.
Using the mantra, “water in equals water out”, take the water meter usage for quarters 4 and quarter 1. Few if any residents will be irrigating over these 6 months. All this water coming into the house will be used and flushed down the drains. Double this volume and you will have a very accurate assessment of the total water being fed into the sewer system from each dwelling for the year. This was NOT possible until the town installed water meters some 5 years ago. My calculations indicate that the cost to ‘process’ a m3 of sewer is $1.48.
Let’s say, starting with the April quarter on any year, ending June 30th, the sewer assessment becomes: the q4 and q1 volumes from the previous year and current year, doubled and divided by 4 and multiplied by the cost per m3. This value is applied until the next year cycle. No need to have a reading, no fixed charge, everyone knows that they pay for what they use, and dump. It is totally transparent. It may well encourage residents to further conserve water and put less pressure on our precious fresh water resources and less pressure on the sewer processing load. It may not be perfect, but I believe that it is a fairer and more transparent system and worthy of serious consideration. We lived in Germany in 1992 and even then, they had this very type of assessment on our utility bill.