Potton will be studying the impact of short term rentals in the small township municipality, as companies and individuals continue to buy up property only to post it shortly after on Airbnb.
Mayor Bruno Côté told The Record in a phone interview Friday that the municipal council is in the early stages of identifying what would be best for Potton residents. The town saw an influx of property buyers during the pandemic, and many of them started to rent out their homes.
And it has quickly become a nuisance for a number of longtime residents. It has been a revolving door of renters coming in and out of the town, partying, and disrupting everyday life, according to Côté. However, there are no bylaws that make short term rentals illegal.
“There are companies that are literally coming here, buying five, 10 residences for the sole purpose of making money through short term rentals,” said Côté, adding realtors have told him that prospective families are losing out on opportunities to companies with deeper pockets.
The municipal council is trying to develop a new vision for the town. Côté wants to focus on welcoming young families, opening more daycare spaces, putting more kids in the neighbourhood school, and developing community activities in the local park.
Côté said this situation is happening in several surrounding municipalities. One Potton resident, according to the mayor, moved on Baker Road, looking for peace and quiet on the unassuming, and forgotten strip, only to see a large cottage pop up across the road.
“They came, they blasted the rock, they made a cave in it, and they built a cottage with 10 rooms, two spas, so this guy’s weekends now are parties, one after the other, after the other. His quality of life is ruined,” said Côté, adding there isn’t much to do except create bylaws.
However, he also wants to carve a space in the town for short term rentals. Côté understands residents are frustrated with the situation right now, but there are financial benefits to keeping visitors in the town. He said one possibility is a bylaw creating rental sectors in Potton.
“We need it. I need people to stay over. People are coming to Mansonville to enjoy the trails, they’re coming to enjoy the park, they’re coming to enjoy the mountain. If they can’t stay over, they’re not coming back, they’re going somewhere else,” Côté explained.
The mayor also believes that if property owners were a bit more selective with who they approved as renters, the nuisance problem might not even exist today. The municipal council isn’t making any rash decisions, though. Côté said they’re evaluating every option.
He also noted that in order to uphold any future short term rental bylaw, the town will need to ensure that a Sûreté du Québec (SQ) resource and liaison officer is available in the municipality. The SQ has been stretched thin over the past two years, and Potton hasn’t had much support.
“Right now if I can’t have the SQ in our territory I can’t make a bylaw and have people respect it. I mean how many of our neighbours here have bylaws on short term rentals? But having a bylaw and implementing it, for a small community, it’s a whole different game,” he said.
The Record also asked Côté about an emerging issue in the township regarding a cottage development project from Chalets Vacances 360 inc. on Baker Road. A group of residents filed a petition raising concerns during Potton’s municipal council meeting last Monday.
Côté said the municipal council will be looking into the project at a special meeting on Feb. 17. Chalets Vacances 360 inc. promoter Réal Dubuc aims to build 32 cottages off the narrow road by 2023. The petition raised concerns over traffic, and how neighbours would co-exist.
“If you have 32 cottages that will have an average family of three every weekend it’s not the same traffic at all on that road, so that’s their first concern, and to me, it’s entirely legitimate, we need to talk about it,” said Côté. There’s barely enough room for snowplows on Baker.
He told The Record that the town’s councillors will explore possible solutions, such as pushing the development project closer to Owl’s Head. He also appreciated the thoughtfulness behind the residents’ petition, rather than engaging in a war of words with the municipal council.
“Instead, these citizens, they sat together and called every one of my councillors last weekend, which on Monday we got to the table and they all had the information and it was easy for us to set up a meeting. These citizens, I mean, they nailed it,” said Côté.