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Bay Roberts to mull over how it handles Airbnb rentals

There are plenty of Airbnb options for people looking to spend a night in Bay Roberts and neighbouring communities.
There are plenty of Airbnb options for people looking to spend a night in Bay Roberts and neighbouring communities. - Airbnb.ca

Town currently charging annual fee to B&Bs, vacation homes

BAY ROBERTS, N.L. —

The Town of Bay Roberts is going to take some time ahead of preparing its next municipal budget to mull over how it will treat Airbnb rental accommodations.

Prior to the Sept. 10 regular meeting, council received two pieces of correspondence from property owners in the community concerning Airbnbs. In recent years, the Airbnb website has become a one-stop destination for people planning trips just about anywhere in the world, offering travellers the opportunity to rent a room or apartment in someone's house or to access an entire home.

One person who owns a vacant piece of land next to an Airbnb rental said there were litter issues with recent guests travelling on ATVs. They also suggested other hospitality businesses such as the Klondyke Hotel were at a tax disadvantage to these operations, which do not pay business tax to the town.

A second piece of correspondence from a local bed and breakfast owner said they experienced a very slow tourism season, managing to sell eight nights for the month of July compared to 28 for that same month in 2018. That person stated there's a need for all operations to be treated equally by the town, adding there are approximately 300 within a one-hour drive from Bay Roberts.

"We have people from the city and neighbouring communities renting out on a nightly basis. Correct me if I am wrong, but would these establishments not be considered a business," the owner wrote.

Mayor Philip Wood acknowledged the town has not been keeping track of all operations of this kind, adding it's an issue for many municipal councils. The town currently has a flat rate charge for bed and breakfasts and vacation home rentals of $500 annually.

"I think all the places should be identified and I think they should be all contacted and what we charge now, at the very minimum," he said. "If we go with the business tax routine, then we'll go with the business tax routine."

Council agreed on a motion to send the matter to both the planning and development committee and finance committee.

Deputy Mayor Walter Yetman noted there are a lot of issues to consider surrounding these operations, particularly when it comes to zoning. Other members of council agreed it may be time for the town to look at drafting a policy for accommodations of this nature.

"We have to invent the wheels, because this is all new," Yetman said. "There's a lot of towns now, we've all got to get together. We can't refer to a Stephenville or Deer Lake or Bonavista, because everyone is in the same boat as us — trying to come up with something new."

Bonavista was recently in the news for the way its municipal government is handling Airbnbs. Mayor John Norman told CBC News the town has taxed Airbnbs, applying its business rate to the property's assessed value. Town staff have visited these sites and those who fail to pay the business tax have had their municipal services shut off.

editor@cbncompass.ca

SEE RELATED:

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