Cobourg Considering Regulating Airbnb

At Monday’s Council meeting, concerns about Airbnb rentals were raised by correspondence from Cobourg resident Anne-Marie Jackson; she complained about problems from an Airbnb establishment on Blake Street (which is within walking distance of Downtown).  Anne-Marie said that “We have seen a notable increase in transient visitors, an increase in on-street parking – often 4-5 vehicles at a time – parties with loud and disruptive guests, documented drug and criminal activity, and as a result, increased police activity.  Further “During documented criminal activity, drug activity and noise complaints where police were called, residents have made attempts to contact (the owner) to address their concerns through the Airbnb ‘Contact Your Neighbour’ portal, but the attempts have gone unanswered. Complaints submitted to Airbnb, are not addressed for 24-48 hours, if at all.”

File Photo - Glenn McGlashon
File Photo – Glenn McGlashon

As a result, Council asked for input from Planning Director Glenn McGlashon.  He suggested that the first step would be a review of the zoning by-Laws but also that enforcing zoning violations would be difficult – Glenn called it a “cumbersome tool”.  He recommended that the Town also create regulations to govern such establishments by Licensing – Glenn called it “a really powerful tool”.  Other towns have already done this – notably Oshawa and Toronto (see links below). This would generate revenue plus would be a powerful tool for enforcement although it might require extra enforcement staff.   Glenn estimated that there could be about 50 establishments in Cobourg. In the end, Glenn agreed that regulating did not depend on zoning or modification of the zoning by-Law.

Council then approved the following motion:

That Council receive the correspondence from Anne-Marie Jackson for information purposes

And further that Council refer the matter of Airbnb regulations and enforcement to Planning staff to consider as part of the Comprehensive Zoning By-Law Review process; and

FURTHER THAT Council receive a Staff Report on Airbnb’s and the potential of the creation of a licensing By-law for the regulation of Airbnb’s in the Town of Cobourg at the November 15 Committee of the Whole Meeting.

The timing would mean that consideration of licensing would be in place for the 2022 budget.

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Sandpiper
4 July 2021 5:37 pm

Air B & B s also cut into the Local Business economy of Legitimate High tax paying business owners and commercial Hotel Motel trade they also drive up our taxes Vis Police and enforcement services while interfering with the regular life style of the residential residents .
Again there are No controls on who is coming we can’t stop whats happening next door
and it needs absolute enforcement , with strict usage controls that are responded to immediately.
our family of 4 had to endure the renting out of our neighbouring property to groups of French Canadian Charter fisherman for a summer . the house had 4 bed rms with 2-3 beds in each
needless to say we never got to sleep before 2 am and they were heading out at 5 am .

This Town Police and ByLaw group did absolutely nothing for us and the rest of the neighbours
for a full 2 months

Kyle
Reply to  Sandpiper
4 July 2021 6:38 pm

Citizens can file a complaint with the Ontario Ombudsman regarding a Municipality not enforcing it’s bylaws.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Kyle
5 July 2021 6:38 am

And 9 to 24 months LATTER your still fighting to live in a peaceful setting suitable in which to raise a family
Spending 100s of hrs and dollars defending your wrights that the town won’t .
you spend and fight ahead of the Town and they don’t help and at the end of the day
the Town claims the victory . Been there .
Now your the bad neighbour !

Kyle
Reply to  Sandpiper
5 July 2021 8:03 am

Cannot disagree with that

Leweez
Reply to  Sandpiper
4 July 2021 6:57 pm

Any reason why their French Canadian heritage mattered?

MCGA
Reply to  Sandpiper
5 July 2021 5:48 pm

In thinking further about this, it came to mind the similarity between Sandpiper’s Airbnb difficulties and problems at the Cobourg marina with charter boats. In both cases there are issues with early morning noise and disruption of the peaceful enjoyment of your premises (either home or boat). In both cases, there is no protection for the owners. In both cases the problem is driven by profit motive. The one stark difference is that with the Airbnb the home owner benefits; while with the seasonal slip rental to the charter captain, the Cobourg Town Marina benefits. Now, how should the Town address that?

Kyle
4 July 2021 4:11 pm

It is unfortunate that the criminal element has found the use of airbnb type properties that are rented without an owner on location to be useful to their needs. Illicit drug parities, sex trafficking, etc etc. No prying eyes and very difficult for police to investigate as they move around. These rentals also ignore fire regulations that traditional hotels have to conform to. They are a scourge now in many communities.
Once they start up it appears the only effective Municipal response seems to be getting a court injunction. Yes, drawn out and expensive. Some Municipalities may be dragging their feet because of this. Easier and cheaper to ignore the suffering.

Mark
4 July 2021 7:16 am

So much hate for Airbnb but love for BnB ?
I have done Airbnb in Rome, Barcelona and Amsterdam
99.9% of the time there are no problems with people who are the renting the space
the town should just add a tax on hotel rentals like other towns

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Mark
4 July 2021 8:40 am

Mark

It’s not hate for Airbnb … it’s the simple fact that a highly commercial and impersonal form of the old fashioned bed and breakfast provides a venue for unaccountable individual and group behavior and disrupts the housing market.

Mark
Reply to  Keith Oliver
4 July 2021 9:27 pm

The town can always regulate the number of short term rentals , like Amsterdam has

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Mark
6 July 2021 5:21 pm

Mark

AIrbnb is a whole new type of overnight accommodation and that’s the problem, (and Cobourg is a fraction of the size of any neighbourhood in Amsterdam).

AIrbnb is not the old Woodlawn Inn or an old fashioned single family bed and breakfast or the Best Western. All of those have some form of on site supervision, etc. It will take much more than simple regulation to make Airbnb fit into Cobourg.

If for reasons of public health, parking and electrical and. plumbing standards I can’t turn part of my house into a rentable apartment, subject to inspection, why is it I can do virtually the same thing by contracting over the web with an impersonal and unaccountable corporate entity who is beyond any liability?

Last edited 3 months ago by Keith Oliver
Dunkirk
Reply to  Mark
4 July 2021 9:47 am

I agree, Mark. A totally good experience. Airbnb is really no different for a taxpaying property owner(whose costs have skyrocketed) than our town putting short term parking meters to maximize revenue on the most central downtown streets. The challenge comes when we try to regulate who actually gets to park in the spaces. Further– there are already insurance & banking covenants for most property owners concerning these land use considerations.
While we would never let someone who doesn’t have a driver’s license design our roads, we should never let anyone who hasn’t used Airbnb design any rules around regulation. To that end, I suggest that Councilors who have never used the service, disclose that & resist the urge to become vocal experts.

Along the same lines, I doubt that years ago when Victoria Park campground was planned, that any Councilor contemplated the fact that those small, short term camping spaces would ever be utilized for entire summers by 60+ foot monster mobile homes that sleep 12 and crowd within 2 feet of their neighbor. I realize this is an age-old debate but, if we are going to regulate short term rentals, maybe we should start with our own house.(?)

Gwen Devaney
Reply to  Mark
4 July 2021 11:50 am

Never used Air B&B or B&B but I can sympathize with Ann-Marie Jackson and any other resident in Cobourg who have to put up with this kind of extra traffic and disruption to their neighbourhood, so some people can make an extra buck. Our area is also zoned commercial and residential, when an owner opened a business in our neighbourhood it caused a tremendous amount of extra traffic, late night parties and the police had to be called more than once. The “visitors” also parked in front of the homes on the street, some of them staying for days at a time, taking up space that should be available for the residents who actually live here. One 80 year old lady had to park in the middle of the road to unload her groceries because a “visitor” to the business had parked in front of her sidewalk. It’s unacceptable behavior. With that in mind, it’s also unneighbourly behavior for one owner to consistently park in front of another owners home when they could very well park in front of their own, just because they may come from one direction, they could drive around the block and come up in front of their own home. Although parking is allowed on both sides of the street here, it’s just common courtesy that one resident should not park in front of anothers home.

marya
Reply to  Mark
5 July 2021 5:36 am

There are vast differences between B&B and AirBnB!

J mich
3 July 2021 6:15 pm

Airbnb’s have brought many problems, disruptions and heartaches to residential neighbourhoods. Just look at places like Toronto, Wellington and Picton (PEC). It drives out families raises housing prices, eliminates affordable rentals, and brings drug and disrespectful behaviour. The people who set up Airbnb are really just interested in the cash and have little concern for the community. Many owners don’t even live in the community so have little vested interest. If they lived in the home or next door to their Airbnb property they would be far more selective and concerned. The creating strong enforceable regulation with Airbnb’s is critical.

Sandpiper
3 July 2021 12:16 pm

A comprehensive Review ?? what’s wrong with Common sense . Our Family has conversed with Mr G in planning over this very issue several times over the yrs . By Law Dept around here is a 9 to 5 operation and seasonal weekends at the water front .
The Town has to start taking a more realistic approach and documenting the public complaints .
They are not conducive to the Peaceful enjoyment of a residential neighbourhood You don’t know who is staying next door. The Local Police tell the neighbours there is little they can do Its a Civil matter and there are many a time you will find 5 or 6 car loads of people arriving and parking every where with out consideration
This has become a Business & a source of Many a undisclosed income s.
Not to mention one of the main reasons Individuals rent Air B& Bs is due to the fact there is no
security , and they can carry on and conduct Business with out being monitored or accountable .
In short activities that would not be permitted in a reputable hotel

MCGA
3 July 2021 10:18 am

While it is a different part of the world, there are some similarities between the Hamptons and Cobourg as far as proximity to large urban centers and the draw of the beach front. This is how one town has elected to begin to deal with Airbnb’s: “East Hampton implemented its rental registry in 2016, allowing homeowners to rent for two weeks or more and to have as many as two rentals, 14 days or less, within a six-month period. Homeowners looking to rent must become a part of the registry, fill out a form, register with the Town Building Department and pay $100 for a two-year term — a direct result of services like Airbnb creating an influx of illegal short-term rentals, and the town struggling to enforce its regulations, according to East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc.” They, along with Sag Harbor and South Hampton, continue to struggle with controlling this process.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  MCGA
3 July 2021 12:58 pm

There seems little difference between Airbnb and the solution offered by East Hampton which “is still struggling” according to Mr van Scoyoc.

I am concerned with housing used as a short term money making investment in this way. It’s open to all kinds of abuse as experience has shown and it adds yet another factor in the growing difficulties that especially young families face in acquiring stable housing in an environment they have decided is best for them.

The fact that there is demand for decent and affordable housing, complicated by sorrng prices, but no increse in supply, indicates a major breakdown in our free enterprise system. Airbnb and treating housing as an investment in stead of a Right are contributing factors and must be corrected.

In a recent Globe+Mail article a spokesman for the Bank of Canada stated the problem needed more study. Nonsense!

Finding the right fix for Airbnb is a challenging one considering the profits to be made. My sympathies to Glenn and Council.

MCGA
Reply to  Keith Oliver
4 July 2021 6:31 am

I think this is one of those times technology and social media run ahead of the law. If the issues are not criminal, the police can’t act. If the issues are civil, action is time consuming and expensive. The best you can currently hope for is a mechanism like what East Hampton employed. Profit is a strong motivator and owners of real property have embedded rights as well.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  MCGA
4 July 2021 6:50 am

Unfortunately financiàl success has become king. Ethics and moral suassion have taken a back seat. The present is what’s most important to most.

I remember my father and others, following WWII, talking about the importance of “sacrificing for the future”, a sentiment no longer heard …which in tern will cost “the future” dearly.

Keith Oliver
3 July 2021 9:36 am

Cobourg recently had at least four Bed and Brefast establishments that could accommodate over night visitors. The two at Albert and Baggot (?) have been converted back to fully private homes. We used to use B&Bs when visiting Ottawa and Orillia. Delightful experience sharing breakfast with a local family.. On occasion conversations well past the meals. Letters were exchanged later.

What happened to Be&Bs? Is there anyway of encouraging them? Did the Town licence them?

beach lover
3 July 2021 8:43 am

Cobourg really needs to encourage investment in accommodation options like boutique hotels or small inns close to downtown. Although everyone seems opposed to day-trippers, there’s currently nowhere decent for visitors to stay that’s walking distance to downtown or the beach. When we had out of town guests they stayed at the Woodlawn Inn which is no more. Another time they stayed at an AirBnB which was well managed but generated no income for the city in the form of municipal accommodation taxes or otherwise.

Sam
Reply to  beach lover
4 July 2021 3:38 pm

Everyone forgets The King George Inn right on the Harbour which is a nice property. see booking.com

Beachlover
Reply to  Sam
6 July 2021 1:18 pm

I didn’t forget The King George Inn – I’ve actually stayed there a few times and while it’s got lots of potential it’s best described as a novelty attraction. The steep stairs, lack of amenities, absence of staff overnight and minimal comforts confine it to a narrow niche demographic in its current form. With investment, it or some of the nearby motels, could be shining jewels and attract visitors interested in culture, nature, gastronomy and history, thereby supporting the kinds of businesses currently in Cobourg’s downtown core.

Lemon Cake
2 July 2021 10:19 pm

This is a huge issue in Prince Edward County – it has gutted neighbourhoods and communities. My sister’s house is now surrounded by AirBNBs – deserted homes during the week and party zones on weekends. They’ve also driven up housing prices and destroyed the rental market. It’s a destructive business model and should be banned outright.

JimT
2 July 2021 8:55 pm

Such a nice looking building on Blake Street. It fits well into the rest of the neighbourhood around it.

Seems a shame to have it used by transients as an unregulated Party Palace when there is such a crying need for quality long-term rental accommodations such as this for genuine residents of the town.

Last edited 3 months ago by JimT
Bloated Senior
2 July 2021 2:43 pm

Haha, yes, let’s put “revenues” in the solution to a concerned resident about Airbnb rentals. And I love the part about “enforcing zoning violations would be difficult”. What?

Bloated Senior
Reply to  John Draper
2 July 2021 4:51 pm

Yes, you are quite right. Thank you.

GEORGE TAYLOR
Reply to  Bloated Senior
3 July 2021 8:43 am

PLEASE! does anyone that gave a thumbs down, not realize what Bloated Senior is saying?