Pubdate: Fri, 06 Oct 2017
Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Will Johnson


Mayor Deb Kozak reflects on Union of BC Municipalities conference

For a small city like Nelson, it's been a gargantuan task to introduce
regulations to two burgeoning industries: cannabis and short-term
rentals. But following a hectic week at the Union of BC Municipalities
(UBCM) conference in Vancouver, Mayor Deb Kozak is feeling buoyed by
the provincial attention they've garnered for their work.

"Nelson is always seen to be on the leading edge of things," Kozak
told the Star, upon her return.

"Last year we sat on a panel around short-term rentals and Airbnb,
which is still a hot topic now, and coming back this year we've
already had our regulations in effect for a year, while other
communities haven't done anything. And it's the same with our cannabis

But, as one constituent put it to her, sometimes it's hard to be

"Sometimes people feel it's better to let someone else make those
mistakes first. That's not the route we went, because we listened to
what the community wanted. We put a tremendous amount of the council
and the community's time into these regulations, and I believe it's
going to eventually pay off."

Airbnb: 'The pressure is mounting'

At the end of the day, Kozak is a little sick of talking about
cannabis when there are so many other pressing issues facing the city
- - primarily the province-wide affordable housing crisis, which has
manifested itself locally with a zero per cent vacancy rate and an
influx of short-term rental properties.

During the conference there were a number of announcements made by
Premier John Horgan about new housing funds, which gives her hope, and
city manager Kevin Cormack met personally with representatives of
Airbnb. They learned repeatedly that other communities are trailing
way behind when it comes to introducing bylaws and

"Kevin Cormack spoke with Airbnb about working with municipalities
that have bylaws in place, and recommended that when registering
people a simple thing they could do is ask the owner to produce a
business license," she said.

"They were there in full force, it was really quite interesting.
Airbnb wants to partner with communities, and the pressure is mounting
on them because communities have stated loud and clear we want to
preserve neighbourhood integrity and longer-term rentals."

Now the city has started enforcing its bylaw, fining homes that
haven't purchased a license or ignored warning letters, and they've
purchased software to keep on top of the situation. There is now an
interactive map that shows all the short-term rentals in town,
accessible online to anyone.

Kozak credited city employee Alex Thumm with creating the bylaw, and
noted he's returned to the city in another capacity. She called him "a
strong member of the team."

"Some communities have more pressures around affordable housing than
others, and ours is definitely one. This was an absolute necessity,
and I think it was the right move."

Kevin Cormack named to cannabis task force

Kozak is on the executive board of UBCM, and serves on two committees
- - Safe Communities and Healthy Communities. As it turns out, cannabis
falls under the purview of both, which is why she was invited to be a
featured speaker during the conference and to share Nelson's progress.

She was thrilled to learn that a new public engagement task force
announced by Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth will include

"It's a pretty big deal for Kevin to be named to that task force. They
were looking for a cross-representation of people active on this file
from small, medium and large communities," she said.

The minister's belief, moving forward: "One size doesn't fit

"It's really telling, the minister's statement of one size doesn't fit
all, because he realizes there will have to be different solutions for
different communities.

"Some may not want any establishments at all, while some way want
lots," she said.

So what works for Nelson may not work for Coquitlam, or Abbotsford,
and that's what the task force will take into consideration as it
works toward implementing the new regulatory system. According to
Kozak, Farnworth is willing to engage with municipal governments on
the issue.

"I don't have much of a relationship with him yet, because he's brand
new, but Minister Farnworth is inquisitive, open to discussion and
really clear about his responsibility to enact legislation that will
work for our communities. It was a very positive discussion."

Kozak is now looking to the government for "clear guidelines on
distribution, clear guidelines on age limits, and some clarity on
rules around advertising. We're looking for leadership on that level."

A hectic week, productive conversations

Over the course of the week Kozak and her councillors met with
education minister Rob Fleming, mental health and addictions minister
Judy Darcy, housing minister Selina Robertson, health minister Adrian
Dix and local MLAs/ministers Katrine Conroy and Michelle Mungall.

She also met with UBCM president Murray Krause to talk about the tech

It was a lot to take in - hitting topics such as aging infrastructure,
the potential closing of Trafalgar Middle School and the renegotiation
of the Columbia River Treaty.

All in all, Kozak feels heard.

"Because this is a new government and the ministers are still learning
about the communities, we found them eager and all the meetings were
very positive," she said.

"We talked about everything from economic development to the tech
sector to clean water and energy systems. Overall I think it was a
very positive week, and we had a lot of meaningful and productive
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