We have been reading many letters in regards to short-term rentals and would like to share our perspective. We purchased a beautiful property in Old Town 10 years ago with the intention of running it as a luxury vacation rental.
We did this for many reasons including (but not limited to) the opportunity to meet new people, our desire to show visitors how beautiful NOTL is, and ensure we have continued income into retirement as neither of us have pensions. As owners and local residents, we are incredibly supportive of our community, sensitive to our neighbours, protective of our property, compliant to town bylaws and, lastly, we strive to provide a superior level of service excellence to our guests.
Our business is not just about making money, it’s also about allowing only those guests who we feel will be respectful of our property, our neighbours and our bylaws. We have declined many would-be guests because we did not feel they were a good fit for our home or our neighbours. Plain and simple, we would rather have a lower occupancy rate with guests we know will be respectful.
We are disappointed when we keep reading about the “hollowing out” of the community and other negative comments about short-term rentals. After reading the March 5 edition of The Lake Report letter headlined, “Yes, short term rentals are hollowing out NOTL,” we cannot disagree more with the comments made by Alison Hepburn and Dave Galloway.
It is both inaccurate and unfair to isolate short-term rentals as being the sole examples of unshovelled walkways and not picking up old newspapers. We live in the Village and we can tell you there are many examples of second homes that are empty most of the year where we see four or five old newspapers sitting on a porch or driveway. We also see this at many homes in Old Town that we know are not short-term rentals. Additionally we ensure the sidewalk of our vacation rental home is shovelled in a timely manner every snowfall (most of the time long before the town sidewalk plow has come by).
The “hollowing out” you refer to around your home (due to short-term rentals) is again an unfair statement. We see many homes both in the Village and Old Town that are second homes and in many cases occupied in terms of weeks not months. Is that also considered “hollowing out?” Should we raise their taxes because they are not really contributing on a regular basis to our community?
Your comments about overnight visitors to NOTL not having a sense of or contribution to our community is yet another unfair statement. We cannot speak for all tourists, but we know for a fact that tourists we meet, and especially those that stay at our property, are contributing in many respects to our community. They support all facets, including our stores, restaurants, heritage sites, plays, festivals, wineries and some feel such a sense of community that they ultimately purchase a home and move here. We suggest you try more to engage visitors staying near you because you might be surprised what wonderful people they are.
Let’s also not forget that overnight tourists (as opposed to day trippers) bring a significant amount of revenue and awareness to NOTL. We firmly believe without that revenue and global awareness, all our homes would be worth much less, our heritage sites would likely become harder to maintain and our streets would perhaps not be lined with as many beautiful flowers.
We encourage town council to help make sure bylaws are enforced on a consistent and timely basis, day or night. Embrace the help that the owners of short-term rentals are trying to provide in identifying illegal/problem homes by heavily fining or shutting them down.
These homes represent a small percentage of the short-term rental community, yet are tarnishing the image of this industry and spoiling it for those owners who work exceptionally hard to run a respectful business.
Look for ways to help make all businesses in NOTL successful, rather than generalizing and trying to assign blame to short-term rentals. Look for opportunities and solutions rather than criticism. Our bylaws need to protect the community yet also allow enough flexibility for all businesses to be successful.
Paul O’Connor and Melissa Rocchi