David and Marilyn Webb

David and Marilyn Webb

Battle over White Rock B&B bylaw

Existing vacation rental suites are illegal: city staff

White Rock’s bed-and-breakfast community say at least three members are facing a huge financial hit if the city enforces a bylaw restricting the use of vacation rental suites.

Members of the White Rock Bed & Breakfast Association say proposed omnibus Bylaw 2000 – which allows rental suites to operate with a licence, but not in conjunction with a bed-and-breakfast – may force three popular tourist accommodations to close their doors.

But while director of development services Paul Stanton noted that many business owners contesting the bylaw have been renting out their suites illegally, association president David Webb insists former city staff gave them the thumbs-up.

“Five years or so ago, when we were getting the licensing for bed and breakfasts, in a discussion with the city, they said it was fine to have the rental suites, but they never wrote anything down. It was agreed upon, but I guess it was never included with the regulations,” said Webb, who is a former city councillor.

According to Stanton, vacation rentals are not permitted under the current Zoning Bylaw 1591.

Under Bylaw 2000, however, both the bed-and-breakfast and a vacation rental – a separate suite with cooking facilities – would be permitted, they just would not be able to run simultaneously.

Business owners spoke out at a March 25 public hearing.

“We had three members talking about how they have businesses functioning with both, and I was sitting there, biting my tongue, thinking, ‘this is not legal,’” Stanton told Peace Arch News Tuesday.

“The vacation rentals that are operating illegally did not have a business licence, and they were also not operating according to the terms for a B-and-B because they were renting the entire suite out for short-term vacation rentals.”

Webb – owner of Ocean Rose Bed and Breakfast – said city staff, including a former city manager and director of development services, gave the suites the OK in 2008

He noted that for years, the businesses operated with both options available to guests coming to the seaside city, and a change may result in closures.

Wife and co-owner Marilyn noted that while the bylaw may have been on the books for many years, she hopes council will take the opportunity to change it.

“Regardless of the bylaw, council has the right to amend it anyway they wish,” she said.

Helen Hesp, owner of Sand and Sea Bed and Breakfast, has been operating out of her home for 15 years. She said she would lose her home if she could only operate a bed-and-breakfast during the peak summer season.

“My point of view is, if I can no longer have both operating out of my home, I will have to sell it and move into a condo,” Hesp said. “But it’s not just the money. Yes, I make enough to pay the taxes, but as a widow, these guests bring the world to me.

“We, as a community, really focus on the motto Live, Work and Play in White Rock. We are the best ambassadors the city has.”

Hesp’s concerns were echoed by Ralph and Christine Nicholson, owner of Christine’s Bed and Breakfast, who said that without the added revenue of having both a bed-and-breakfast suite and a rental suite operating, there may not be much point in continuing with the business.

“For us, it’s our core business and what it’s been built around,” he said.

“They complement each other and to do just the B&B or the guest suite, to do one or another, I don’t know if we would end up doing anything.

“It’s almost like starting all over for us, for no reason.”

Webb said he had mentioned to council the option of “grandfathering” in the three current businesses, if they pass the bylaw, in order to prevent further businesses from having the suites.

But Stanton said the current businesses do not fit the criteria for that process.

“In order to be ‘grandfathered’ it has to be lawfully permitted in the first place. Vacation rentals were not previously lawfully permitted, and therefore cannot be grandfathered,” he said.

“Further, they are renting to the travelling public with no confirmation that they meet the minimum health and safety requirements – including fire code requirements – of the BC Building Code.”

Stanton added that having the businesses operating as they have been would result in a large transient population in residential areas, which could lead to issues such as traffic congestion.

“To me that’s taking away from residential areas,” he said. “You have to recognize, every property in the RS1, RS2, RS3 and RS4 zones are permitted the same criteria. That’s up to 7,000 properties. What we allow on one, we have to allow on the rest.”

Stanton said he has suggested council deal with the bed-and-breakfast issue separately from Bylaw 2000, so as not to hinder the rest of the bylaw from going through.

“My suggestion is to not hold up the whole bylaw over this issue, but to see it on its own merit,” he said.

“Before we open up a larger can of worms, let’s see if there is a better solution than to allow both at the same time, instead of accommodating those three properties, which, excuse my language, were operating illegally.”

Council next meets on April 15.