Since I was involved in presentations to the town regarding B&B zoning introduced March 2012 without discussion with B&B operators, I feel I should respond to this article.
Twelve years ago we came to Lake Cowichan to operate a B&B. It suited our situation, and, I would argue, provided an important service in town. We had traveled widely over the years and enjoyed contact with the traveling public. After some time we were hosting about 230 sets of guests a year and were lucky to have excellent reviews.
Last November we sold our home as a family home and closed our B&B. Earlier in the year we had a couple inn-sit for two weeks.
They were seriously interested in taking over our B&B. However, they were not sure they could generate the revenue they needed, which is difficult with only three rooms and more importantly, they were not sure they could trust the town regarding zoning and support. They did their own research on this and decided to set up business elsewhere.
I disagree with the town administrator’s contention that B&Bs are not a useful economic development vehicle. I would argue that the B&Bs in town have performed a useful economic role and brought significant business to town. For example, our B&B group has worked with the Motel, the Honeymoon Bay Retreat and food establishments to prepare a shared rack card that was racked in Victoria, Sooke, Duncan and our own Visitor Centre.
We also have a group web site that performs a useful function.
In town presentations we argued that there is no need to limit the number of rooms a B&B has. Provincial tax rules deal adequately with this question. They say three and under rooms are treated as residential while more are treated as a combination until a certain level. Also limiting to two rooms is not consistent with the surrounding CVRD regulations. Many of our friends and colleagues were operating larger properties in other parts of the province.
We argued that cooking should not be restricted, but this issue relates to a much broader issue of whether the town should recognize the existence of secondary suites that provide needed moderate priced accommodation. Victoria is also trying to work out this issue.
We also argued that zoning for B&Bs should not be restricted to the Point Ideal area. It worked very well for us because it was such an easy location to find and handy to town and Lakeview. But there are many very suitable properties spread across town. When we were searching we located an equally suitable property on the other side of the lake and others in the CVRD.
The article had considerable discussion about www.airbnb.ca We have stayed in a number of airbnb properties.
They have all been excellent for us and we will continue to use them. In effect airbnb provides an excellent booking system. It is easier to use and more effective than www.booking.com that we were using and their charges are up front.
It provides reviews of properties and allows owners to review guests. Yes there are problems in some cities that I’m sure will be worked out. I am surprised that www.vrbo.com was not mentioned. Check that out! It is also a good booking system.
If I were starting now I would probably use airbnb as my online booking agent. I would encourage the town to open zoning for B&Bs across town and to provide support and encouragement to any people who show interest.
They should also encourage interested people to take out a business licence. We have suffered a drop in B&B supply both in our town and across the province.
People need encouragement, not unnecessary zoning hurdles.