B&Bs blocked from expanding capacity

Entrepreneurs in Lake Cowichan thinking about turning their homes into bed and breakfasts

Entrepreneurs in Lake Cowichan thinking about turning their homes into bed and breakfasts of more than two rooms are out of luck following a recent decision by the town’s advisory planning commission.

On Thursday, the APC decided against recommending changes to the local bylaw that limits new bed and breakfasts to just two rooms. The decision comes a month after the commission heard from local B&B owners expressing concerns with the town’s B&B rules and regulations, which it characterized as too restrictive.

David Kidd, co-owner of Kidd’s B&B, addressed the commission on behalf of the group in February.

“If you had someone that was prepared to run a B&B or guest house of six rooms and they had adequate parking and did it well, I think this would be a great asset in the town because we’re pretty short on good accommodation,” he said.

In March 2012, the Town of Lake Cowichan adopted a zoning bylaw amendment limiting new bed and breakfasts to two rooms. Part of the reason for this amendment was citizen concerns about how B&Bs might negatively impact parking in their neighbourhoods.

Part of the town’s consideration also had to do with many residences not having more than two bedrooms that would be available for rent.

B&Bs are permitted in parts of town zoned R-1 A, where lots tend to be larger.

A person in a single family home wishing to open a B&B in a different zone does not have to rezone their property to R-1 A but must apply to the town to have a B&B permitted at that location. The application fee is $750.

“Why do we choose to restrict the zoning only to R-1 A, which essentially is where we live in Point Ideal,” Kidd said. “I’m quite sure there are plenty of other properties in the town…that could make very satisfactory B&Bs.”

Kidd said Lake Cowichan’s rules make the town unattractive to prospective entrepreneurs who might look to other communities in the Cowichan Valley with less stringent bylaws to open their bed and breakfasts.

However, at the most recent APC meeting, the commission ultimately decided not to recommend any changes at this time.

Part of the reason this topic has been raised again is the anticipated influx of tourists for Sunfest, although Coun. Tim McGonigle noted there are other upcoming events in the area such as the BC Community Forest Association requiring more accommodations in the town than can be currently filled.

“I want to know what the appetite at the table is to look at expanding the number [of rooms] in light of some of the things that are coming. I’d like to know where the APC stands on this,” he said, using the example of expanding the room limit from two to three or four.

Joe Fernandez, the town chief administrative officer, recommended against making such changes at this time.

“To increase the rooms just unilaterally to four and just let current bed and breakfast locations expand their number, I think would be not very smart. You want neighbours at adjacent properties to at least have a say around the town taking that step,” he said.

Commission chairman Ross Fitzgerald said if council thinks B&Bs could make an “effective difference” in filling an existing need in the community for accommodation, the commission would be willing to looking at some options in that regard.

“But until we really know what impact Sunfest is going to have, we shouldn’t make any permanent changes to the bylaw, that would be my opinion,” he said, to which the other commission members voiced their agreement.

The APC did acknowledge the popularity of Airbnb — a website that allows people to rent lodgings in their homes and private properties — in Lake Cowichan and the surrounding area.

There are currently more than 300 listings for Lake Cowichan on Airbnb.

While some larger Canadian cities and municipalities regulate the use of Airbnb in their jurisdictions, there are currently no such bylaws or regulations in Lake Cowichan.