Pubdate: Wed, 20 Sep 2017
Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Deb Kozak
Page: A6


With one year left in this term, council recently took the opportunity
to reflect, refresh, and reset strategic priorities that were
established at the beginning of our term. The pace we keep leaves
little time for reflection and this was an important day. A portion of
the day was spent discussing change: what was anticipated, what was
not, and how council responded to emerging issues.

Council regulates. What this means is that council sets the framework
on a number of issues for community through bylaws. Bylaws are
constructed with the unique needs of community in mind. When council
considers adopting new bylaws, it is done with the goal of developing
balance between diverse community values and opinions.

The first question that is asked is, "Why is there a need for a
bylaw?" Once that is answered, the how comes into play. The finesse
comes in designing something that clearly defines what is allowable
and what is not.

Council took on some significant regulatory work over the last 18
months to respond to emerging issues including zoning for short-term
rentals and medical cannabis business licensing. These were important
community issues for a number of reasons. Council recognized that the
changes needed to be phased in over a reasonable time to allow the
business owners and those affected to have the opportunity to come
into compliance. Council also recognized the importance of enforcing
the new bylaws to ensure that broader community values were being
achieved and to be fair to those that came into compliance with the
new regulations.

Here's a status update on each of these important regulations.

The short term rental bylaw

Why did Nelson need a short term rental bylaw? With the rapid growth
of platforms like AirBNB and VRBO, combined with the tight housing
market it was important that council consult with the community and
put in regulations. The challenge for council was to balance the
demand for this type of accommodation by our visitors and the impact
on our traditional accommodators, residential neighbourhoods and the
availability of rental units for long-term renters. The regulations
also needed to be enforceable to meet the intended goals.

This is what we've learned since the bylaw went into effect this year.
Nelson currently has 94 residential short term rental accommodations.
Of those, 46 have now received or are in the process of receiving a
business licence. We also found out that education and active
enforcement was necessary.

The city purchased Host Compliance software to assist in identifying
operators and to make them aware of the regulations. In February, 45
letters were sent out to the operators without business licences,
serving 60 days notice to comply. In April, follow up letters were
sent giving operators 15 days to comply prior to enforcement. After
the 15 day period, bylaw enforcement followed up with 10 operators
that continued to operate without a licence. Since then, the city has
worked with all 10 operators and all have now applied for business
licences or have ceased to operate.

The second round of bylaw enforcement took place in July 2017. Five
addresses were identified that did not have a business licence.
Warning letters were issued and a further warning will go out. Bylaw
enforcement will issue tickets this week. Bylaw enforcement has now
begun reviewing the remaining properties that do not yet have an
identified address and will work towards identification and

The cannabis bylaw

The new Medical Cannabis Regulations came into effect on March 6.
Medical cannabis dispensaries were given until September 19th to come
into compliance. The why of this decision is more complex. Cannabis
regulation is the responsibility of the federal government and
dispensaries are illegal at this time. In addition, the Liberal
government announced that recreational cannabis will be legalized in
2018. As well, courts of law have determined that residents have the
right to access medicinal cannabis.

With federal legalization pending, it seemed rational to wait for
those regulations and that is the direction council initially took.
Council and Nelson Police continued to monitor the situation. In this
climate of uncertainty, medical cannabis dispensaries started opening
within the city. Council had the choice of either taking the
dispensaries to court to close them down or adopting regulations to
better manage community safety and allow access to medical cannabis
until the federal and provincial governments put legislation in place.
Many in the community felt the mail order system to access medical
cannabis was not suitable and asked council to allow and regulate
these businesses.

Council chose to regulate and turned its attention to the best
practices of other communities who have entered the realm of
regulation. The bylaw regulates access to medical cannabis and ensures
that the number, locations and security of these premises are managed.
The business license fee acknowledges the extra costs in city staff
time related to taking on the responsibility to solely regulate these
businesses. To date, council has approved issuing business licences to
seven dispensaries on the condition they are in compliance with the
zoning and the Business License Bylaw. Six are in compliance, have
made the necessary security improvements and have paid their fees. The
seventh dispensary is not in compliance and council is hopeful that
this one will come forward before bylaw enforcement comes into effect
this month.

Nelson city council has shown leadership on these issues and our lead
is being followed closely by other local governments. We've taken on
unanticipated challenges with thoughtfulness, grace and the best
interests of the community at heart. We will continue this work with
the same respectful and vigorous debate to the end of this term.
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MAP posted-by: Matt