By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
PORT AUX BASQUES – The most recent council meeting took place on Tuesday evening, Aug. 22, and matters discussed included the Bruce II, dilapidated properties, the affordable housing units, camping signage, and a letter of concern from a small business owner.
Mayor Brian Button asked Town Manager Leon MacIsaac for an update on the fuel switching at the Bruce II.
“Companies here are currently doing work,” said MacIsaac. “The contract is progressing, and it sounds good.”
Mayor Button wanted to know whether council has gotten to the point of being able to demolish.
“As mentioned at last meeting, council had a discussion to issue demolition orders on two vacant properties,” said MacIsaac. “We have a couple of non-occupied buildings that council considered making a demolition order for. We have sold three other derelict properties that bids have been received on for council to consider.”
Mayor Button mentioned being up in the area and seeing equipment ready for paving, and was wondering what the timeline is for completion on the units.
“The curb work and that is completed but the cabinetry and appliances are still delayed,” said MacIsaac.
Button asked if there was a timeline on when they will arrive.
“I think we’re aiming for October the first if no further delays are experienced,” said MacIsaac.
Paving work is set to begin within the next week.
Mayor Button wanted to discuss a particular motion that was brought forward during a special meeting of council.
“There was a special meeting as well that was held and there was one motion that was made and that had to do with the camping,” said Button. “There was a motion that was made by Councilor Keeping, accepted by Councilor Lane that no overnight parking signs at Grand Bay West and Railway Heritage Museum, I think the base of Mount Holland would be installed.”
“Temporary signs are in place until the factory ones come in,” said MacIsaac.
Town Clerk Nadine Osmond read a letter from a resident who is concerned, after recent events, about the future of her business, which started shortly before the COVID pandemic and took another hit thanks to Hurricane Fiona. The issue has to do with accommodations.
“It’s also hard to pay off bills when you’re competing with people who do not have to operate legally or by the same standards. Our business is registered. We pay property tax, business tax passed all inspections, both municipal and provincial. We are registered under GST and with all business and tourism associated government departments and associations. While I would never fault a fellow community member for opening a business or renting a room in your home, why are these folks not held to the same standards that my business is? Why, in an area that already has a housing crisis taking place, are people able to Airbnb full homes and apartments for nightly rates? Why was a moratorium on Airbnb nightly rentals not in place immediately after Fiona wiped out our homes? We have people leaving our town to move elsewhere due to lack of housing. When these people leave, they take their skills, incomes that went into our local economy, their families, and any potential for laying down roots and keeping us populated. Even if allowed to Airbnb, why are these people not paying a business tax, getting business insurance, fire inspections, commercial property, power prices, all of the standards I am held to?”
The letter continues with some research into possible solutions.
“Toronto has brought in legislation to try and crack down on this same problem. The city passed a new short term rental bylaw in 2021, defining short term rentals as all rentals under 28 days. Torontonians can only rent their principal residence, and they have to register with the city and move. Aimed at stopping people from owning multiple Airbnbs, the bylaw limits rentals 280 days out of the year for an entire principal residence. With no limits on all of the rental of up to the three individual rooms in a principal residence, the owners of illegal units can face a fine of up to $100,000. Seems like a pretty fair solution to me,” read Osmond.
The decision was made by council to do some investigating into other municipalities, and ascertain how they are dealing with similar issues, especially within a housing crisis of their own.
“I’d be interested to know what some other municipalities in Canada have done, in Grand Falls, any of these communities, what they might have in place,” said Button. “So maybe it could be a good discussion for at MNL. Would be a good time to bring it up. The letter makes valid points. I don’t question or disagree with anything that she’s saying, but it’s just trying to find something that again, is one of these situations where we can put it all in place, but how do we police that? This is not just here. It’s all over Canada.”