The following is a letter sent to Lord Mayor Betty Disero and members of Niagara-on-the-Lake council.
We would like to bring your attention to the proposed changes to the short-term rental bylaw that the town is reviewing and amending, specifically on the likely impact some of these changes could have on tourism and the economy in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Overall it is a well-thought-out bylaw and the industry supports a substantial portion of it. However, not the new change to the primary residency requirement.
The NOTL economy is heavily dependent on tourism and while “day-trippers” make important contributions, it is the overnight guests who give NOTL businesses the biggest boost. They support the Shaw Festival, local wineries and restaurants and, importantly, the Queen Street merchants.
Cottage rentals and villas are an attractive option for visitors with small children and pets, and for those who don’t want to eat out two or three times a day.
If those vacation rentals were no longer available, most of that business wouldn’t go to hosted rentals in NOTL, but to surrounding cities and towns and other communities that offer these types of rentals.
Consider that the current 185 unhosted short-term rentals conservatively represent 900 individuals per rented night, at four nights per week x 25 weeks in high season.
This represents nearly 100,000 visitors who will no longer have access to the accommodation that fits them best.
What is the impact on all the supporting industries that depend on their spending? NOTL already has a comprehensive short-term rental bylaw that prohibits principal residences from being used as cottage rentals and villas.
Consider the supporting businesses that have made investment decisions based on these existing rules. It is grossly unfair to all who have committed to growing tourism in NOTL to change the rules of the game after they have invested literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in NOTL and met the town’s every demand.
Other changes to the bylaw are worth discussing and supporting, however the radical change of introducing a primary personal residence requirement needs to be removed in order for tourism in Niagara-on-the-Lake to recover and grow.
Respectfully submitted by: Janet Jones, owner, Matisse Bed & Breakfast; Maria Mavridis, owner/operator Bianca House B&B; Bob Jackson, CEO, Lais Hotel Properties Ltd.; Tony Chisholm,;David Levesque, past-president, NOTL Bed & Breakfast Association; Jason Clements, owner, Niagara Holiday Rentals; Tim Jennings, executive director/CEO, Shaw Festival; Paul Macintyre, VP operations, Vintage Hotels; Eduardo Lafforgue, president, NOTL Chamber of Commerce.
Tourism working group