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Neighbours in Severn fed up with short-term rental

Mayor Mike Burkett says upper levels of government need to step up to help; Airbnb owner denies allegations, takes issue with local bylaws
Neighbours Nancy and Alan Croft, left, and Barbara and Owen Hoover live next to a short-term rental property in Severn, which they say has disrupted their lives over the past two summers.

A pair of neighbours in Severn Township are at their wits’ end with a short-term rental site located between their two properties.

Located on Lakeside Drive, the Crofts and the Hoovers say they have been dealing with problems since current owner Michael Wise purchased the property in 2021.

Though the property was rented long-term through the fall and winter this past year, the neighbours said the past two summers have been filled with loud music, parties, and disrespectful behaviour on a regular basis.

The Crofts and the Hoovers, who are retired, said the situation is having a negative impact on their lives.

“We can’t even invite people over on a Saturday night because you can’t leave because of noise next door. We don’t even take our grandson (outside) half the time,” Nancy Croft said.

“There was a group there the other week, and they can’t seem to string a sentence together without dropping the F-bomb. And then they’re on the dock and two of them almost looked like they were having sex.”

Barbara Hoover said if she had company, she wouldn’t take them to the dock due to the situation through the summer.

“Over the last year, we’ve had to call the police, we’ve had to call the fire department, bylaw officers,” said Nancy Croft. “Some of them had a fire that we thought was going to set the whole bloody tree on fire.”

The neighbours said they have reached out on numerous occasions to their municipal, provincial and federal government representatives, but no long-term solution has been found.

The Township of Severn recently hired two additional bylaw officers and passed noise and parking bylaws to help curtail issues brought on by short-term rentals.

An interim control bylaw was recently put in place, preventing new short-term rentals from opening while it is in place, but it lapsed in January.

Severn Mayor Mike Burkett said such a bylaw may only be enacted once in a term of council, and he lamented there is only so much municipalities can do without support from upper levels of government.

“Municipalities are the closest to the people … and our hearts go out to these people,” he said. “We haven’t got anything in our tool chest to fix this. It needs to come from upper levels of government.”

Burkett said any bylaw passed by a municipality can be challenged in court.

He pointed to a recent case where an Oro-Medonte bylaw prohibiting commercial accommodations in dwelling units was repealed following a hearing with the Ontario Land Tribunal.

“Anything that we enact gets challenged in a court of law. It actually needs to come from the province, and the province won’t touch it,” he said. “We wholeheartedly, as a council, our staff ... feel for these people, but we haven’t got anything in our tool chest to stop it.”

Burkett suggested the province might impose restrictions on short-term rentals, and that the Canada Revenue Agency could perform audits on short-term rental operators, as it does for other businesses.

That said, Burkett pointed out a minority of short-term rentals cause issues.

In 2019, a study in Severn identified 73 short-term rentals, Burkett said, but only four were identified as problematic.

He said problematic short-term rentals can have a “huge impact” on communities, but dealing with the issue is complicated.

“How do we tell someone that buys a house and rents it out what they can or can’t do with their own home? It’s a very, very fine line,” he said.

Michael Wise, the owner of the short-term rental property on Lakeside Drive, agreed some accommodations can cause problems in communities.

“You’ve got this five per cent that doesn’t care who they rent to or let stay at their home,” he said. “They don’t care about their neighbours, but the 95 per cent do. That’s basically it. It’s the amount of bad eggs (that) is the problem.”

Wise said he previously rented his home as an Airbnb-style accommodation, but now only rents it out to friends, family and employees.

He denied all allegations with regard to his Severn property, and said there are people in the neighbourhood who could attest to that.

“I’m a simple person. I would not allow this kind of behaviour on my property whatsoever, and if that was going on, I’d be up there in an hour and I’d have them thrown out myself,” he said. “I don’t tolerate lewd behaviour. I don’t like people drinking there. I don’t have people playing loud music. I have family and friends there, and that’s it.”

He takes issue with the bylaws related to short-term rentals.

“These bylaw laws that they’ve imposed on homeowners will be thrown out in the Ontario court because they’re not lawful. You can’t tell somebody how to run their home or live in their home and pay for their mortgage, and tell them that they can’t rent their place out,” he said.

“You can Airbnb all over the world, but Severn and Collingwood and Innisfil and Barrie — you can’t do it there because we’re different than everybody else in the world, and that’s not true. It’s not true.”

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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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