“We kind of – at times – had our life turned upside down.”

Andy Harris says living next to a property that’s been converted into a short-term rental isn’t what he signed up for when he retired and purchased his Bracebridge home.

“There are hotels, and there are motels, and there are residential areas. This is a residential area,” he notes.

Harris calls the 2,400 square-foot townhome next door a party house, fetching $625 per night.

He says guests rent it on the website VRBO and admit they didn’t realize they were renting in a residential area until they’ve booked.

According to VRBO, Bracebridge now has about 300 listings, and it’s growing every day.

“The last three months, we have 80 new short-term rentals,” says Bracebridge resident Debbie McLaren. “There aren’t any rules and regulations, and because Toronto cut back on what they allow, investors are moving north.”

It’s become such an issue the town is voting on a plan to freeze any new short-term rentals for three years through an Interim Control Bylaw.

However, the mayor and deputy mayor have their reservations.

The town’s deputy mayor says they need to make sure when they implement measures, it’s done right the first time.

“I know a number of municipalities have struggled putting a bylaw in place that has certainly come back to them and been a challenge to enforce and defend if it was ever appealed to the Ontario Land Court,” says Bracebridge Deputy Mayor Rick Maloney.

The town’s CAO wants to better understand how much of a problem short-term rentals have become and how best to regulate them by conducting a one-year study.

“We’re proposing that we just deal with the complaints like noise and parking with the traditional bylaw staff that we have in place,” says CAO Stephen Rettie.

And while he sympathizes with residents upset by weekend rentals, realtor Todd Adair says the district needs and plans for tourism dollars.

“We’re a snowball running down a hill in Muskoka. There’s a lot of new attention, and we like it. We want more people to be here and experience how great it is,” says Adair, Cayman Marshall International Realty.

Town council will vote on whether to ratify the Interim Control Bylaw on Wednesday night.


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