The Town of Brome Lake is launching a public consultation process to revise its proposed short-term rental bylaws after more than 300 residents signed a register calling for them to be subjected to a referendum.
The proposed bylaws, tabled in March, would have allowed people to rent out primary or secondary residences on sites such as AirBnB and Vrbo anywhere in town, provided they obtained permits from the Town of Brome Lake and the Corporation de l’industrie touristique du Québec and respected certain conditions. Under normal circumstances, 430 signatures on the register would have been needed to force a referendum, but the town chose to lower that requirement to 215, and 373 people ultimately signed, according to pro-mayor Lee Patterson, who is the town council’s point person on urban planning.
Instead of moving forward with a referendum, the town will now put together a consultative committee, chaired by Patterson and made up of town staff, residents on both sides of the issue from different sectors of the town, and elected officials. The committee will be tasked with developing a more broadly acceptable bylaw which Patterson hopes will be passed by March 2023, when new provincial regulations come into force.
Although several written and in- person public consultations were held in early 2022, Patterson said, “in hindsight, we could have done a better job of explaining” the implications of the policy change. “If it’s not getting social acceptance, we don’t want to push it down people’s throats,” he added. “We don’t seem to be that far apart – there are just small grey zones people would like to clarify with regard to noise, permits and taxation.”
Benoit Bourgon is a cofounder of Vigilance Lac-Brome, a citizens’ group concerned about short-term rentals Vigilance Lac-Brome had encouraged residents to sign the register to show that they were unsatisfied with the bylaws as proposed. Bourgon hopes members of the group will be appointed to the committee.
“This [creation of a committee] suits us well – it’s what we wanted from the beginning,” he said.
Bourgon said that allowing short- term rentals everywhere in the town would be “disastrous,” potentially exacerbating a shortage of affordable housing and leading to noise complaints and other inconveniences.
“The employers are all hiring, but the employees can’t find apartments because they’ve all been rented on AirBnB or Vrbo,” Bourgon said. “Also, in a lot of instances, people rent AirBnBs for three people and come in large groups…and there’s no way to police that.”
“We would like to see AirBnB banned throughout the city except for specific targeted areas,” said Bourgon, citing the example of Magog, which limited short- term rentals to certain zones earlier this year. Patterson has said that Brome Lake’s division into dozens of small zones would make that complicated.
Patterson hopes the committee will be able to meet in the fall and make recommendations to the town council so that a new bylaw can be tabled in early 2023.
Brome Lake residents interested in serving on the committee can email firstname.lastname@example.org.