Other sections of this site have made reference to Provincial and local legislation that are intended to set universal “basics” for planners and politicians alike when drafting new zoning, development and social policy. On the Provincial side, there are three main guiding documents – The Ontario Planning Act (The Act), The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GP). Locally, there are several additional policy documents that must be respected such as local By-Laws, Official Plans (OP’s) and in this particular situation, various Simcoe County policy mandates and objectives.
The three Provincial documents are the overriding documents that planners must not contradict when developing and implementing local planning policy. These platforms speak to the influence that planning decisions can have with respect to socio-economic factors, public transportation and matters concerning the environment and effects of global warming, as well as development. The PPS and GP are broad in scope and defer detailed policy decisions to upper and lower tier (County & Municipal) governments, but still lay out the “minimums”.
Taken from the PPS:
1.2.6 Land Use Compatibility; …sensitive land uses shall be planned and developed to avoid, or if avoidance is not possible, minimize and mitigate any potential adverse effects from odour, noise and other contaminants, minimize risk to public health and safety, and to ensure the long-term operational and economic viability … in accordance with provincial guidelines, standards and procedures.
b) alternative locations for the proposed use have been evaluated and there are no reasonable alternative locations;
1.4.3 Planning authorities shall provide for an appropriate range and mix of housing options and densities to meet projected market-based and affordable housing needs of current and future residents of the regional market area by:
a) establishing and implementing minimum targets for the provision of housing which is affordable to low and moderate income households and which aligns with applicable housing and homelessness plans
b) permitting and facilitating: 1. all housing options required to meet the social, health, economic and well-being requirements of current and future residents, including special needs requirements and needs arising from demographic changes and employment opportunities; 16
The Growth Plan mirrors those guidelines:
Complete Communities: a full range of housing,
18.104.22.168 c) provide a diverse range and mix of housing options, including additional residential units and affordable housing, to accommodate people at all stages of life, and to accommodate the needs of all household sizes and incomes” - in support of economic development and expansion.
When we look at upper tier policy, that of the County of Simcoe, the direction to municipalities becomes more defined and specific. Here, we will look at the County’s long term housing policy whose objectives must be considered in all matters of local planning.
Taken from “Housing Our Future. 10-Year Affordable Housing and Homelessness Prevention Strategy” (2014):
Recognizing that housing directly affects health outcomes of individuals and families, enhances their ability to access educational and employment opportunities and ensures the opportunity to participate in the social and economic fabric of the community, this Strategy effectively positions local communities to thrive in the future. Pg 7-1
Conversely, the municipalities of Tiny, Tay, Midland, and Penetanguishene are experiencing less in-migration, an aging population, and a lower median income compared to many of their southern counterparts. What’s more, North Simcoe is host to the provincial Waypoint Mental Health Centre and the Central North Corrections facilities; to assist North Simcoe’s vulnerable population with its complex needs, a higher volume of housing supports are required. 7-5
Population pressures, economic context, income distribution, prevalence of low income, and the state of social housing stock, are all trends which impact the cost, affordability and availability of housing, as well as labour force renewal, and the local economy. 7-7
In order to ensure that the full range of housing options is maintained, municipal authorities must protect existing rental housing within their communities. 82-1
Local and County-wide economic development efforts must focus on the recruitment of well-paying, full-time employment opportunities that allow residents to live, work and play in their own communities. “objectives” 134-13
Homelessness, in Simcoe County, is predominately a “home grown” issue. There do not appear to be flocks of people coming from other jurisdictions in a homeless state trying to access homeless services within the County. These are people that became homeless, for the most part, while in the County. 143-4
Lastly, lets look at a couple of Tiny Townships Guiding principles from the Official Plan adopted in late 2018:
A.1.3.5 Much of the character of the developed areas is based on the form and structure of its neighbourhoods. As a result, it is the intent of the Official Plan to protect and improve each neighbourhood as a diverse, safe and attractive living environment for existing and future residents.
B.4.1.1 The Shoreline designation is the historic recreational area of the Township supporting cottage properties. The Shoreline designation has maintained this cottage area function and character but has evolved to accommodate permanent residential development in the form of new residential units and conversion of existing cottages. The Shoreline designation has limited commercial development, diverse geography and has a different character from the other developed areas of the Township. -33
So we can see from reading these outtakes that housing is of significant importance to provincial and county policy makers, and that it is imperative that planning policy revolve around “healthy” development that encompasses a broad range of housing opportunities for all segments of the population. Simcoe County and North Simcoe in particular are identified by these upper tier bodies as being particularly vulnerable as a result of limited resources and compromised populations beyond the provincial norm. Even Tiny spells out the importance of community living.. “….the intent of the Official Plan to PROTECT and improve each neighbourhood as a diverse, SAFE and ATTRACTIVE living environment….”
While being just one contributing factor to the local affordable housing shortage, pro-STR policies at the very least exaggerate the problem and more to the point, do not adhere to the overriding governing policy statements of the provincial and regional governments, or even Tiny’s own “intent”.
So what gives? Excessive numbers of STRs negatively affect housing opportunities, affordability, diversity, they hamper economic health and expansion by limiting the ability for people to live where they work, their presence flies in the face of provincial policy with respect to supply, they operate contrary to numerous legal and tribunal decisions, they directly contradict Simcoe Counties 10 year housing policy objectives… remember, that housing plan clearly stated that homelessness was a “home grown” issue….
“…. these are people that became homeless for the most part, while [residing] in the County.” 143-4
Homelessness is a serious and very complex problem, yet this Council has the authority and opportunity to alleviate to a small degree, the devastating impacts of families with nowhere to turn by NOT promoting housing speculation and local inventory shortages by reeling in STRs.
Not rocket science.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE….
For ten years, Tiny has taken the position that STRs are legal, even though we have already seen that Airb&b for example has only had a presence in this country since 2014 indicating that the nature of the rental process has obviously evolved over time. Yet this administration has steadfastly insisted that STRs are a permitted residential use, willfully refusing to address their failure to adhere to their very own laws:
“….. If a use is not specifically mentioned as a permitted use in a Zone then it is not permitted …” Tiny zoning by-law 06-001- v
Regardless, if in fact STRs are legal under the current By-Law, then why the need for the zoning by-law and official plan amendments? Why not just slap your licencing plan on these things and carry on if it is all above board?
Because Tiny Planning knows full well that it’s not.
We need to dive deep into the proposed changes and examine what they really are and what they will mean. The saying goes “the devil is in the details” and the first case of wordsmithing comes from the Definitions section. The current pre-amble reads:
Section 3.0 - Definitions –
“It is necessary to define words in a Zoning By-law because it is a legal document. A By-law must be drafted so that it can be enforced in a court of law. These definitions will help provide clarity in the By-law and ensure that the By-law and its intent are applied consistently”
Now the proposed revision:
Section 7.0 - Definitions –
“It is necessary to define words in a Zoning By-law because it is a legal document. A By-law must be drafted so that it can be enforced in a court of law. These definitions will help provide clarity in the By-law and ensure that the By-law and its intent are applied consistently. If a word is not defined, refer to a dictionary and apply the defined term in the context for which that word is used”
This highlighted section is rather amusing as when pressed on the current definitions in the existing By-law 06-001, the Planner and his consultant have argued that the dictionary IS NOT how to define terms in a by-law – without providing an alternative of course.
There is a new definition for Commercial Use that did not previously exist:
“Means the use of land, buildings or structures for the supply or sale of goods and services”
That’s pretty vague and planning obviously has an opportunity to be very clear on what a commercial use is… how do you define “a service” for example?
This is the current definition of DWELLING UNIT
“Means two or more rooms used, designed or intended for the domestic use of one or more individuals living as a single housekeeping unit, with living, sleeping and sanitary facilities, and one kitchen facility, having a private entrance from outside the building or from a common hallway or stairway inside or outside the building”
Now the new definition of DWELLING UNIT
“Means two or more rooms used, designed or intended for the use of one or more individuals living as a single housekeeping unit, with living, sleeping and sanitary facilities, and one kitchen facility, having a private entrance from outside the building or from a common hallway or stairway inside or outside the building.”
Did you catch it?
As you recall from the Law page on this site, you were asked to remember the use of the word “Domestic”. That one word has been eliminated from the new definition of Dwelling Unit. Why you ask? Well let’s do exactly what the new Definitions definition tells us to do and go to Webster’s:
Domestic: of or relating to the household or the family
HOUSEHOLD: those who dwell under the same roof and compose a family also: a social unit composed of those living together in the same dwelling
SOCIAL UNIT: a unit (such as an individual, a family, or a group) of a society
The definition of “domestic” as you can see relates to family AND household. Now the definition of “family” has been clearly defined by the Courts as documented on the Law page, but let’s add one more:
“… a restriction based upon a definition of “family” which incorporates most types of arrangement usual for people living together as “single family” dwellings cannot be said to be either unreasonable or discriminatory or to constitute zoning based on the relationship of the occupants. In invoking the definition of “family” used in the by-law, it appears to me the township employed a valid zoning device to regulate the “use” and “character” of residential premises.”
Smith et al v. Township of Tiny, Ontario Court of Appeal (1980), 29 O.R. (2d) 661.
By dropping the word “domestic” from the Dwelling Unit definition, the Planner has eliminated the “family” requirement essential in determining occupancy. “Household” also refers to family, but it also pulls in “social unit” which as you can also see broadens that definition further to encompass “individual or group of a society”. A single household unit no longer requires the occupants to be related – like a group party of friends for the weekend. Get it?
And now the By-law Amendment itself:
SHORT-TERM RENTAL ACCOMMODATION
“Means the secondary use of a residential dwelling unit that offers a place of accommodation or temporary residence, or occupancy by way of concession, permit, lease, licence, rental agreement or similar arrangement for twenty-eight (28) consecutive calendar days or fewer with no on-site management throughout all or part of the year. Short-term rental accommodation uses shall not mean a motel, hotel, bed and breakfast establishment, tourist establishment, tourist cabin establishment, or similar commercial accommodation use. For the purposes of this definition a secondary use shall mean secondary in terms of time the dwelling unit is used as a short-term accommodation.”
Ya, secondary to just what exactly?!
It’s all become quite clear what is happening here now.
These are poorly drafted revisions and to say the least, vague at best, confusing in it’s references to numerous undefined classifications (commercial services for example) and what of this last point of “Secondary Use” What is considered a primary use? What is the threshold of “secondary” (50%, 35%, 92%)?.....
We believe this to be intentional on the part of the Planner and his consultant.
This issue has struck a cord with much of the population of Tiny as it has in many municipalities across the region, most of whom contend with the same common arguments and ignorance of the facts and law (connect the common dots in Simcoe), and knowing all too well that any amendment permitting STRs in Tiny will be undoubtedly appealed to the OLT, Tiny planning has resorted to pushing the envelope in drafting language that will be found favourable to future Tiny Planners across the board all the while leaving it to the Tribunals, Courts and everyone else’s expensive lawyers to figure out what an STR is and where it can set up business. But the damage will be done.
Why is it so imperative that after nearly four years of dodging the problem, this Council crew MUST pass this amendment before the end of their term? Why introduce a new use of land without having the necessary controls (licencing/ enforcement plan, budget, etc.) in place beforehand? Why commit what could (hopefully) be a completely new Council to a half baked, possibly expensive, litigation laced political time bomb of a policy with less than 3 month’s to go? Because while under appeal, everything maintains the status quo…. STRs continue to expand and operate uncontrolled, people continue to struggle to find a roof for their families to sleep under, full time residents continue to face the all-too-common dangers of inebriated “cityits” threatening violence, disrupting and destroying the rights of the majority, homelessness continues to grow which is alarming in itself, seniors trapped inside their homes living in fear, the associated economic stagnation resulting from migration out of an unaffordable community…..
And all of it – ALL OF IT – completely un-necessary and avoidable as the current Tiny administration can spare this community the pain, expense and irreparable damage this misguided and ill-advised agenda has and will inflict on this community by simply abandoning the amendment, enforcing the current By-law to start with a clean slate, and allow the next Council the task of devising a rational, workable, enforceable STR policy.
Not much chance of that.
The only solution to this and other important matters that have been mismanaged in this municipality for the past eight years is a political one. Never lose sight of what is at stake here.