Revelstoke councillors express concerns with short-term rental bylaw, opt to proceed to public hearing

Despite some councillors' reservations about the plan, Revelstoke city council voted to take the proposed short-term rentals bylaw to a public hearing.

File photo: Construction in the Arrow Heights neighbourhood under a smoky sky in late July. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

Revelstoke city council opted to proceed to a public consultation period and then a public hearing in September for its proposed short-term rental bylaw.

In a debate that mainly served to highlight several councillors’ concerns about the proposed policy, council spend almost an hour-and-a-half discussing the proposed plan at its July 27 meeting. In the end, it passed as proposed.

Out of the possible policy interventions on the short-term rentals issue, this proposed short-term rental plan is one, but there was concern that the proposal may not be the right one, and that it will draw public concern.

While the Director of Development Services, Marianne Wade, emphasized that the proposal was the result of a long process with many consultations, the adjectives applied by some councillors — a “patch” and a “Band-Aid” — highlighted some council members’ lack of confidence that the proposed bylaw is right for Revelstoke.

What is actually proposed in the new short-term rentals policy?

The short-term rental bylaw focuses on single-family homes. It proposes allowing short-term rentals (STR) only in secondary suites in the homes, under condition that there is a permanent resident in the main suite. The system proposes a cap of 300 rentals, including the 29 exiting spot-zoned vacation rentals.

In a staff report, the city summarized the changes using these bullet points:

  • In residential areas, STRs are only permitted on a lot that contains a single family dwelling with a secondary suite
  • In residential areas, STR must be located in the secondary suite as per the Council resolution passed on June 8, 2021
  • In residential areas, STR must be operated by a permanent resident and they must be present when the STR use is occurring
  • Only one STR is permitted per lot, and it is not permitted in conjunction with a Bed and Breakfast, Care Center, Group Home, or Boarding Room use
  • A maximum of 3 bedrooms for 6 occupants may be used as a STR
  • Within commercial areas, single family dwellings used as a STR are not required to have a permanent resident operator undertaking a residential use onsite and are not restricted to a secondary suite, however must have 24/7 property management services.
  • Definitions of STR, Residential Use, Commercial Use, Permanent Resident, and Temporary (less than 30 days) are added to the Zoning Bylaw.
  • Commercial and residential zones are amended to permit STR as a use
  • Comprehensive Development Zones and the 29 spot zoned vacation rentals (Rv properties) remain exempt from these amendments.
  • The 29 spot zoned vacation rentals are in the 300 cap.

Currently, there are 29 spot-zoned vacation rentals in the city, but that system was discontinued in about 2016, and there has been a long pause since as city staff came up with a new plan.

The 300-home cap and the restriction to secondary suites were amendments made by council at recent meetings. For more on that, see the story embedded just below.

Staff is also proposing upping fines for those violating the bylaw to $1,000 per day, but there wasn’t detailed discussion about how that would work, such as through active enforcement or the current complaints-based system.

Staff also acknowledged the business license fees were too far to low, and said they’d look into that at a later date.

The 300-home cap does not apply to commercial zones or comprehensive development zones, such as Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Mackenzie Village.

Background on the development of the short-term rentals bylaw in 2021

Revelstoke short-term rental policy heads to resident feedback

For more details, read the staff report on the short-term rentals bylaw presented at the July 27 meeting or more details on the city’s engagement webpage for the short-term rentals bylaw.

The debate

Coun. Tim Palmer said he’d heard two specific concerns from residents so far. The first is that the proposed bylaw will remove affordable housing from the community. The second is the restriction to secondary suites won’t provide the accommodation people are looking for.

“I’m seeing more reservations about it than enthusiasm for it,” Palmer said. “There hasn’t been robust feedback from the public on … the policy cap and the exclusivity to basement suites.”

Palmer was also concerned that the policy was based on a series of council resolutions, some of which date back several years. “The world has changed from two years ago and I don’t know if we’re listening to today’s voice adequately,” he said. “We’re putting too much weight on voices of the past.”

Watch: Watch the July 27, 2021 Revelstoke city council debate on the proposed short-term rental bylaw here. The video is cued to the start of the discussion:

Coun. Jackie Rhind expressed concern about the policy’s impact on housing supply. *Coun. Rhind contacted us after publication to say this comment was specifically directed at possibly allowing rentals in the main suite: “I think just need to look more holistically at the implications of this. I think it’s not good at all,” Rhind said. “I also see … an extremely challenging housing situation and there being very few levers that we can actually meaningfully make an impact on and this one seems like a no-brainer.”

However, other councillors said the public hearing would be a chance to hear what residents think about the plan, and that adjustments could be made after the hearing.

Coun. Rob Elliott described the bylaw as a “patch,” one of a series of steps on the short-term vacation rental issue. “It’s not going to solve all our problems,” he said.

Coun. Nicole Cherlet said the policy may not be perfect, but the public still had the opportunity to weigh in. “There are some hot buttons on this bylaw that may get adjusted before third reading,” she said. “That’s what we’re looking to hear.”

Mayor Gary Sulz wanted to keep the staff plan moving forward. “I think the important part is getting something on the table,” Sulz said. “Nothing is perfect.”

He also questioned whether it would negatively impact housing supply. “We can’t say that long-term tenants are going to be kicked out,” Sulz said. “There is a process of vetting going through this. I look at it and say, ‘What’s going to be the better experience in the community?'”

How do I participate and provide feedback?

According to a staff report that broke down participation during limited input periods so far, much of the feedback so far has come from parties with a direct financial stake in the bylaw, such as those looking to open short-term rentals or legalize existing ones, and accommodation industry representatives — both from the traditional hotel sector and the growing number of businesses serving the short-term rental industry.

The public hearing has not been scheduled, but is penciled in for September with no set date yet. You can submit your feedback in writing prior to the hearing, or speak at the hearing.

Currently, the city is operating a feedback page on its engagement platform. You can sign into the system and fill in a form there.

The public hearing system is a formal process. Prior to the public hearing, you can submit your comments and they will be compiled into a package presented to council before the hearing. The Manager of Corporate Services (email link) is responsible for compiling the documents. You can also email feedback directly to the mayor and council by email ( and it will also be compiled into the final hearing submission package.

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have or call/text him at 250-814-8710.