Six Lake Cowichan Bed & Breakfast owners seeking a revision on amendments made to the town’s bylaws on B&Bs in 2012 attended the town’s Finance and Administration Committee meeting on April 9.
B&B owner David Kidd spoke to council on behalf of the Lake Cowichan Cabins, B&Bs and Lodges Group.
“We have come to discuss our issues concerning the bylaw amendment that was passed last year,” Kidd began, adding that none of the B&B owners had even been aware of the amendment until they saw it reported in the Gazette.
The amendment included regulations affecting the zoning, cooking rules in equipped rooms, and the number of rentable rooms allowed under the town’s B&B classification, the restrictions of which were their main concerns he said.
“It’s created a sense in us that the town is not really supportive of B&Bs,” Kidd told councillors.
For those who are serious about running a B&B, the limitation of two rooms hardly makes it worthwhile, he said, and even at three rooms, it’s more of a hobby than a business.
Councillor Tim McGonigle, who chaired the meeting, assured Kidd that the rules put into place by the amendment were not intended to downplay the role B&Bs play in the town’s tourist economy.
“There may be some underlying factors that staff may be able to answer for us,” he replied, adding that they would look into it.
After the issue of the limitation on the number of rooms came the issue of guests bringing food into the rooms versus eating at establishments in the town. Kidd said that in their 10-years experience of running the business, most often guests did support the local restaurants. However, he explained, there are occasions where families are trying to moderate costs, and gave an example of a recent booking where two families who were there for hockey tryouts, and chose to bring their food back with them.
The third issue the group wanted to discuss was about the town’s bylaw for B&B zoning.
“I think the major issue is that we feel there’s too much concentration just in one little corner around Point Ideal,” he admonished. “There are people who have or decided to buy suitable property for opening a B&B in other parts of the town and we’d like to see that broaden.”
The bylaw regulations for zoning and for the number of rooms permitted differs around the lake because of the governance. For example, Kidd raised the point that B&B owners in Youbou and in Honeymoon Bay are allowed to have four rooms according to their bylaws, which come under the jurisdiction of the CVRD.
And yet, when it comes to short-term rentals in self-catered suites, one Youbou property owner has found out the hard way that he doesn’t have the right to rent out his own property.
Paul Brigel is a Victoria physician who owns a lakefront house on Miracle Road in Youbou. As he doesn’t live there year-round, he was glad to be able to oblige when asked by a third party if his house was available to rent for short-term. What seemed like a win-win situation became a source of dispute when a neighbour complained.
“The basic parameters are, the neighbour to my immediate east rents, because nobody complains,” Brigel said. “But the neighbour to my immediate west complained, therefore I am shut down.”
Brigel says in his area, it is enforcement-driven,
“The enforcement officer waits for a complaint,” he explained. “And what happened to me is that I had to sign a document, and if I didn’t sign that document then I would be taken to court.”
Now that he has signed the document, Brigel says that if he goes ahead and rents his house, he will be in contempt of court, and as a practising doctor and a member of the College of Physicians he cannot afford to put himself in that position.
Whether it be allowing residents to keep backyard chickens (see previous Gazette articles about chicken petition for Lake Cowichan) or allowing homeowners to rent out their property for short-term, self-catered rentals, if it annoys a neighbour and they complain, then the administration has the right to and must take action according to bylaw regulations.