Revelstoke vacation rental hearing controversies flare

Public hearings on the subject of vacation rental applications continue to stir up controversy at Revelstoke City Council meetings. A series of hearings on Valentine's Day were amongst the most controversial yet.

The owners of 305 Fourth Street East (at right) had their vacation rental application denied after a heated public hearing. Neighbours said the home was inappropriate for vacation rentals due to the small lot, parking issues, and proximity to neighbours — amongst other complaints. Photo: Melissa Jameson/Revelstoke Mountaineer

There was little love in the air for vacation rentals in Revelstoke at a Valentine’s Day Revelstoke City Council meeting. Although one application was approved, others were denied or deferred after significant opposition from neighbourhood residents.

Neighbours of a proposed vacation rental on Fourth Street East were the most vocal in their opposition to the application, giving applause after city council unanimously defeated a motion that would have seen the property at 305 Fourth Street East turned into a legal vacation rental.

The property is managed by Revelstoke Vacation Rentals, which is co-owned by city councillor Scott Duke. Duke removed himself during the public hearing, as he has done for vacation rental related matters since being elected to council.

While most of the public commented directly on the issues regarding the vacation rental property, some individuals felt a need to question Duke’s integrity as a business owner and councillor. Former city councillor Gary Starling was the most vocal, stating he felt Duke was lacking in respect for the bylaws he is expected to uphold as a city councillor.

“I ask you, what message does this send to the community?” asked Starling. “My view on this is as a councillor you should lead by example. How many more illegal vacation rentals are being operated by this company and others?” Starling also ripped into council, saying they should have acted on the situation.

Mayor Mark McKee said that he had discussed the issues with Duke, and that there is a process to go through for vacation rentals.

“I know the company is trying to get their people to go through the legal process, and they’re coming through. That’s what today is all about,” said McKee. “When we come across [a vacation rental] that’s illegal we give them an ultimatum. Shut down, turn to long term rental or go through the process to become legal.”

Others opposing the application for the vacation rental expressed concerns over a lack of parking, and over what they said was a lack of a neighbourly relationship.

“The applicant had an opportunity here. They knew the rules when they started the application process,” said Jeff Colvin, who lives next door to the proposed vacation rental. “They could have put their best foot forward; they could have shown themselves to be a good host. They’re not a good neighbour to me and they’re not a good neighbour to the city.”

Colvin also said he felt the city doesn’t have enough resources to deal with vacation rental properties.

John Townley also expressed concerns over the small lot size the house sits on.

“We shouldn’t even be having this discussion over this house,” said Townley, noting that there is a lack of parking out front and a tiny alley which is only sporadically plowed. “It’s clear it is not a good candidate for this type of rental.”

Eve Northmore, co-owner of Revelstoke Vacation Rentals, did speak on behalf of the owner who currently lives in New Zealand. She said the bylaw requirements for parking had been met.

“He has adhered to every bylaw the city has requested of him. He has gone above and beyond to adhere to the bylaws,” she said.

In the end, council made the decision to deny the application to approve 305 Fourth Street East as legal vacation rental.

It was the most contentious public hearing of the Feb. 14 meeting, but several others experienced similar controversies. A vacation rental application for a residence on McCarty Crescent was rejected after many neighbours opposed the application. Other applications were deferred while the city works on a separate bylaw that would cover applications where only one suite in the home is permitted for vacation rental use.