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Chelsea walks itself into an admin nightmare

March 1st,2023 | Opinion

Remember how much trouble Chelsea had with just one referendum last October? Imagine 177 of them.

Chelsea’s controversial short-term rental (STR) bylaw could turn into 177 referendums if enough residents show up to sign a registry. Yes, you read that right, 177.

When Chelsea announced earlier this year it would allow five STRs per ward beginning in 2024, councillors added a small detail to the fine print that could spell an administrative nightmare for the municipality come the end of March.

Each ward in Chelsea is broken up into several zones, and the municipality has 227 of them throughout all six wards. There are 50 zones in the Chelsea Park neighbourhood in Ward 2, where STRs are banned outright, so that leaves 177 zones that have the option of allowing STRs in their neighbourhoods. If enough people in each zone rally against STRs and sign a registry, it could trigger a cascade of referendums on the STR bylaw.

Some residents fear that groups of NIMBYers will stick together and kill STRs in their neighbourhoods out of fear that they will become party palaces. Resident Tineke Kuijper argued that the municipality needs to better differentiate between the party palaces and the single room rented out to skiers 10 weekends a year. She is worried that affluent residents, who don’t need extra income, will simply kill the bylaw for those who do.

She isn’t wrong. STRs have a bad rap. Just look at the news cycle over the past 12 months and you’ll see headlines like “500 revellers bussed to Wakefield Airbnb bash.” If these NIMBYers figure out that they can shut down STRs in their neighbourhood, you can bet they will show up at Town Hall on March 29.

The entire STR bylaw proposed by Chelsea is shortsighted at best. When Chelsea said that five STRs per ward was “generous” at a recent public meeting, it didn’t sit well with residents. Chelsea explained that there were only five requests for STRs in the past year from residents, but a quick search on Airbnb brings up more than 70 listings currently in Chelsea. It’s clear there is more of a demand than five per ward and 30 for the entire municipality.

Chelsea also announced that STRs would be approved on a first-come, first-served basis. Imagine 70-plus residents making a mad dash to Town Hall to make the five-per-ward cut. Be sure to set your alarms that day.

Chelsea residents have been suggesting great ideas and solutions on everything from the STR project to the controversial dock bylaw that has put Farm Point residents in a corner.

Chelsea needs to listen to its residents instead of spinning its tires in its council chambers.

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