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Tourist homes addressed in Canmore bylaw changes

Changes to Canmore’s Land Use Bylaw are being made to address the illegal use of residential dwelling units as tourist homes in the community.

Changes to Canmore’s Land Use Bylaw are being made to address the illegal use of residential dwelling units as tourist homes in the community.

The current bylaw links use of a residential home as a tourist home to a period of 28 days, which has made it difficult for the Town to enforce.

The proposed LUB, however, has seen removal of that determination and states: “the use of a dwelling unit as a tourist home at any time and for any length of time constitutes a development and requires a development permit.”

Planner Steve de Keijzer explained the move does not change the intent of the bylaw or that residences are not supposed be used as tourist homes.

“It has been clear for 10 years that council does not support the operation of tourist homes in residential neighbourhoods,” de Keijzer said. “Our intent is to clarify in definition and interpretation what a tourist home is and the regulations.”

What has happened is some home owners use a 30-day lease to rent the home for a shorter-term stay, circumventing the intent of the bylaw, according to administration.

A number of cease use orders taken to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board had their appeals upheld for that reason.

By taking out the 28-day part of the definition, de Keijzer said to rent a dwelling unit for one night to a visitor in Canmore makes it a tourist home and therefore it requires a development permit.

The bylaw retains additional wording to distinguish a tourist home from a residential unit, including intent of the occupant to stay for short-term vacation purposes rather than use the property as a residence; the commercial nature of a tourist home; and/or the management or advertising of the dwelling unit as a tourist home or “ vacation property”; and/or the use of a system of reservations, deposits, confirmations, credit cards or other forms of electronic payment.

“It is not a change in policy,” de Keijzer said. “It is really trying to clarify the language and get to the intent.

“It is not changing the rules… it is trying to make the rules clear.”

Tourist home owner Shawn Tomlinson spoke out at the recent public hearing on the issue of tourist homes.

He said illegal vacation homes are not paying their fair share of taxes and fees that legal tourist homes are.

“We have counted up to 70 illegal tourist homes in Canmore not paying taxes,” he said.

Tourist homes are taxed at a higher rate than residential property in Canmore unless they are being used as a primary residence.

They also pay business licence fees as a commercial operation and require a development permit.

Tomlinson said he operates legal tourist homes and his business is harmed by the Town allowing illegal vacation homes to continue.

Tomlinson questioned how allowing illegal tourist homes to exist influences the reputation of Canmore.

He said if guests of an illegal operation arrive to a cease use order it looks bad for tourism in the community.

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