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Niagara Falls
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Property owner’s request for rental permit rejected by council
Chris Draayer, owner of 729 Line One Road explains why the property he built is best used as a short-term rental. EVAN LOREE
Chris Draayer says he built the property on Line One to code, and within zoning requirements. Though built as a single family home, he says it lones itself more to short-term stays. EVAN LOREE

A Virgil resident wants to use a three-storey home as a short-term rental despite previously saying that was not its intended purpose when he built it.

But councillors promptly rejected the request.

Chris Draayer, the owner of 729 Line 1 Rd., appeared at a council meeting Jan. 30 asking the town to let him use the house as a short-term rental after his initial application was declined.

His appeal was dismissed unanimously without generating much discussion.

“We have to stick to our strict bylaws,” Coun. Maria Mavridis said.

Bylaw officer April Smith told council the property has not been occupied for four years and so does not qualify for a licence. 

Single detached dwellings need to be occupied for four years before they can qualify for a licence, the town’s short-term bylaw said.

“I do remember the controversy around it and you were quoted as saying you were never going to make it an Airbnb,” Mavridis said. 

Draayer said the house was a “little bit odd” and “lends itself more to short-term stays.”

“The moment you walk into this place, it kinda says, ‘Don’t stay here long,’ ” he said.

He also considered listing the house for sale, or for a long-term lease, Draayer told council.

“Most of the comments were, ‘It’s not really conducive to a family life there,’ ” he said.

He said he wasn’t sure what his plans were when he built the house but wanted to “do something interesting” with the small lot.

The property would not be eligible for a licence until Feb. 17, 2027, Smith told councillors.

Draayer told The Lake Report he knew that approval was a long-shot going in.

“What have I got to lose? It’s either going to stay in the family as friends and family use, or I’m going to list it.”

Someday, after the four-year clause in the town’s short-term rental bylaws lapse, Draayer said it could be an Airbnb.

“I’m just learning more about the whole short-term rental application process,” he told council.

Draayer’s name is attached to two short-term rental licences on the town’s registry.

These are both for vacation apartments at 1607 Four Mile Creek Rd., also in Virgil. The corresponding Airbnb listings for that address list Draayer as the host.

According to the host’s landing page, he has 503 reviews and has been hosting for five years.

Draayer said he had no problems getting licences for his property on Four Mile Creek, though, because the zoning permitted it.

He advertises 729 Line 1 Rd – “the Tiny House” – on the platform as well.

The ad lists it as “Available for summer 2023,” but for a minimum stay of 28 days.

“This newly built unique custom home can sleep up to four couples and is located in the heart of NOTL,” the ad states.

Draayer said he rents it exclusively to family and friends and does not charge them for their stay.

He said he gets no bookings for the property through Airbnb and the posting has no reviews.

Town spokesperson Marah Minor has told The Lake Report rentals used for more than 28 days are not included in the town’s definition of a short-term rental.

Visitors to “the Tiny House” will find a large staircase in the centre leading to the upper floors and basement. The structure has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, a kitchen and living room.

“Everything’s tight,” Draayer told The Lake Report during a house tour.

“If I could have gotten more room in the bedrooms for dressers and walk-in closets and all that you don’t think those would have been there?” he said.

Asked if alternate designs would have made it more comfortable for long-term residents, he said “maybe,” but what he built was to code and his architect was restrained by the zoning bylaws.

Though he could have requested variances or planning amendments to allow alternate designs, Draayer said he chose not to, citing concerns about project delays.

Though he said he was not motivated by the profitability of the short-term rental market, he did say he’d had bad experiences renting to long-term tenants.

He’s happy with the renting to long-term residents but a former tenant, he said, “destroyed” one of his old properties.

“I had to put more money into that part of the house than I got from them over the two years,” he said.

As for previously saying he didn’t plan to use it as an Airbnb, Draayer commented: “What do you want me to say? People can’t change their mind?”

“Once you start building and realizing – and living and spending time in it – your thoughts can change.”

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