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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council to decide on Short-Term Rental request in Colchester

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

Council for the Town of Essex will have to decide if an existing single-detached dwelling on Chester Road in Colchester can be used as a new Short Term Rental Unit (STRU), weighing the request from the owner and opposition from neighbours.

  The owners have requested the STRU use for the dwelling through a site-specific zoning amendment, which is the required process.

  Council heard the merits of the request during a special meeting hosted April 15, in addition to delegations who spoke to the matter.

  On May 6, Council will return to the decision-making table to consider the request. At that time, a report on the matter will be presented, answering and addressing additional Council member concerns and questions that will help them to decide to either approve, defer, or deny the request.

  In May of 2022, the previous Term of Council adopted By-Laws to regulate and license STRUs in the Town of Essex, in part, permitting them in a Residential Zoning District, only if established and in operation in an existing dwelling on or before the adoption of the By-Law on May 9 of that year. After that point, an STRU was not permitted in a Residential Zoning District, except by approval of a site-specific rezoning request through Council.

  Mary & Claude Begin made the application for the site-specific rezoning change for this home, which is designated Lakeshore Residential in Essex’s Official Plan and Zoned Residential District 1.1 in the Zoning By-law.

  “Our family has owned a small business for over 30-years in the Town of Essex and we are passionate about sharing the beauty of Essex County with others,” Mary told Council. “We believe there is so much greatness within our local community, including beaches, wineries, parks, and small businesses within each of the town centres. We hope to be able to share this with other family members, who can stay as guests on our property.”

  She added in the past-year, they have spent a significant amount of time fixing up the home. The intervention is to offer families five to 14-nights, who want to explore Essex County. She later added they would also like to host wedding parties from out-of-town, so they can stay together and prepare for their big day.

  She said the property can accommodate eight guests and is in walking distance to Colchester Beach. Mary intends to provide guests with information about the area, encouraging them to explore and shop the local areas.

  It has four bedrooms and would be required to have three parking spaces, Town of Essex Junior Planner, Ian Rawlings, told Council in answering Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley’s question.

  They are looking at working with a management company to address guest needs.

  Mary asked Council for fair consideration for the proposal.

  When circulating the information to all property owners within 120-metre radius, Rawlings noted six pieces of feedback in opposition to the proposal were received, with primary concerns regarding parking and traffic, in addition to disruptions to the neighbourhood.

  In addition, one petition was signed by 29 individuals of the Westchester Beach community, representing 20 of 39 homes in the area, in opposition of the proposed Zoning Amendment.

  Council heard from two separate delegates during the meeting, who voiced concern with visitors possibly using their private beach as they believed the Colchester Beach is a fairly long walk, who would be accountable if problems arise, if neighbours would be forced to police by-laws and such if no one was onsite to oversee the facility on a continuous bases, the potential for increased crime, noise, traffic, liability concerns if visitors use their private property, and loss of privacy.

  They asked for the request to be denied, realizing it was not an easy decision to make.

  Councillor Rodney Hammond said he prefers STRUs with smaller accommodations, which helps keep noise-levels down, a common complaint heard previously on these types of accommodations.

  Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy asked if Town staffers have reached out to existing STRU operators to see how they feel about the market and saturation-levels. As they paid for a license, as implemented in 2022, Bondy wanted to make sure they felt supported. She believes if one is allowed, Council will be asked to allow more. Essex does not have a saturation ratio.

In addition, Councillor Jason Matyi asked where parking on the street would and would not be allowed in the area to be added to the report coming to Council in the near future.  

  Councillor Joe Garon said that not all STRU renters are bad apples. He would agree to talk about needs and saturation.

  Recently, Council learned, so far, 83 STRU licenses have been issued since introduction of this STRU program, of which 80 STRs are currently active.

  The majority – 74 – are located in a residential area, with three in an Agricultural District and three in a Commercial District. There are no such units in a Green District.

  In addition, 74 of the STRUs are located in Ward 3, with two in Essex Centre, one in McGregor, and three in Harrow.

  This home is within 100 meters of one other STRU, and within 1km of ten.

  In March, Essex Council directed Town staff to return to the municipal decision-making table with a By-Law amending its Short-Term Rental (STR) Licensing By-Law 2025, which licenses and regulates STRs in the Town of Essex.

  The changes could increase the licensing fee for STRS, not require external stickers on STRs and introduce an online voluntary map to identify them.

  This is still to return to Essex Council.


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