Unlicensed Short Term Accommodation (STA) operations continue to be a problem in the Town of The Blue Mountains.
The issue continues to persist despite the town now having a robust licensing and enforcement bylaw in place and staff are investigating increased enforcement efforts to curb the problem.
At council’s committee of the whole meeting on August 9, Director of Legal Services Will Thomson delivered the biannual bylaw report to council that outlined bylaw enforcement activity in the town through the end of June.
A good portion of the conversation about the report concerned STAs. The numbers show the town has issued 80 administrative penalties so far in 2022 bringing in $61,875 in fines, with a further $17,000 in pending fines. STA licensing revenue totals $361,676 so far this year.
Members of council were interested in seeing increased enforcement of unlicensed STAs.
“I still see a lot of people flaunting the STA bylaw,” said Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon, estimating he could go online and find 50 unlicensed operations advertising themselves at any one time.
The deputy mayor said he believes the licensing regime is working and it’s time for a crackdown on unlicensed operations.
“Are we enforcing our bylaw to the letter of the law? We spent a lot of time on it. Are we being strong enough with the tools we gave you in the toolbox?” he asked.
Thomson said bylaw enforcement officers spend a portion of every day investigating STAs online.
“We have a working list,” he said, noting that an online listing for an unlicensed STA might not include an address. “There is some investigative work to do there.”
CAO Shawn Everitt said technology may be able to offer the town assistance with the issue of unlicensed STAs. Everitt said at a recent conference he was part of a presentation involving computer artificial intelligence that helps track and categorize STAs.
“I believe this is something the new council will see in a future budget. The efficiencies I see are phenomenal,” said Everitt. “This is something that is heavily on staff’s radar.”
Coun. Rob Samspon suggested other enforcement techniques might help as well.
“If there are repeat offenders in the STA category, I wonder if Revenue Canada might be interested in a call?” he said.
Coun. Paula Hope encouraged staff to continue their enforcement efforts.
“We have to make sure they are called to account. We’ve worked very hard to come up with these bylaws,” she said.