File photo of the water treatment plant.

Council briefs: Of wastewater treatment plants and Airbnb

Council discussed the draft minutes from the Strategic Goals Subcommittee’s Feb. 16 meeting.

The agenda for the Rossland Council meeting for Monday, March 6, looked sparse at first blush, but there was lots of meat on the bone in the end.

While there were no delegations and no public input at the meeting, there were several interesting debates.

Council discussed the draft minutes from the Strategic Goals Subcommittee’s Feb. 16 meeting.

One major point of contention centred on item 1.1.5: “Invest in a pre‐feasibility analysis of a wastewater treatment plant that is a significantly less expensive long‐term option to upgrading the regional treatment facility.”

Coun. Andrew Zwicker took exception to the dismissal of exploring the idea further.

“It should be said that when we first put this in there, the intention was to do a feasibility study so that we are prepared with an alternative plan, [because] when we get a plan from the regional district that we disagree with — that we should fully expect because that’s been the history of what’s been happening,” Coun. Zwicker said.

“I started doing some pre-feasibility, and we talked to our own advisory council, and the idea was shut down flat out, and there was 100 per cent zero interest in even pursuing the idea. The reason why they said there is no interest is they said they’d already analysed it and came back with the results, but the fact is they didn’t even look at it. We made a decision to not pursue something without exploring it at all.”

Mayor Kathy Moore interjected, saying, “There was some exploration. It’s important the staff knows that we are not interested in going forward with this item the way it’s worded.”

While reviewing the public works report, council heard that 18 water lines froze in January. Most of those were tied to the same water main, CAO Bryan Teasdale said. He mentioned many of those waterlines were close to the surface and not insulated by snow, raising the frost level.

Coun. John Greene asked about snow pile removal downtown, asking why it had not been done in some time as it affects parking spots.

Just wrote me a letter

The other major debate focused on an item on the correspondence consent calendar list. The topic was the letter submitted by RED Mountain Resort to the province’s minister of finance asking for the rescinding of a provincial tax regulation “that exempts accommodation that is provided by an accommodator who offers fewer than four units.”

“RED Mountain Resort fully supports competition, but the current legislation allows an unfair advantage for accommodators of under four units, and encourages the movement of long-term accommodation into the nightly rental market,” their letter states.

Coun. Lloyd McLellan was all for it: “I thought we should support that letter.”

“I asked other mayors of resort municipalities of what their feelings were on it, and most of them are in support of doing that, Mayor Moore said.

However, Coun. Zwicker, who was on the unlicensed short-term rental committee, said he would not support endorsing the letter.

“There’s a number of statements in here that are not necessarily true or backed up by fact. The numbers, and the people we talked to, didn’t jive with that. What we heard was that if we don’t do an Airbnb, we’re not going to rent it at all.”

Coun. Zwicker said that most of the money that goes to the larger hotels goes out of town. “When you have many, many smaller accommodations, you can distribute that wealth through your whole town, and most of that wealth stays in your town, whereas if you are funnelling that to larger accommodators, most of that money is leaving your town.”

Coun. Greene disagreed, saying, “Most of the money that the Prestige takes in doesn’t leave town. They pay taxes, they pay maintenance, they hire staff. A little bit of profit leaves town.”

Mayor Moore noted that Airbnb hosts and small accommodators do not pay taxes on their room rentals.

“All of these small guys don’t contribute anything tax-wise so nothing goes to Tourism Rossland,” the mayor said.

Coun. Marten Kruysse clarified, “We are talking about a base system of regulations that is fair and equitable to small guys and big guys. This is one issue that happens to be in the provincial domain.”

In the end, Mayor Moore said it was too early to adopt a position.

“I’m sympathetic to levelling the playing field and certainly not depriving Tourism Rossland of funds because they do great work for us. But I do feel we are a little ahead of it because we do have these recommendations that are coming back to council and it would be interesting to see how big the problem is.”

Council received recommendations from the unlicensed short-term rental committee on Feb. 6, and forwarded them to all accommodators for review and comment, but are still waiting to hear back.

The motion on the table was to write a letter supporting the rescinding of the exemption, but it failed, so council is going to wait until they create their own list of recommendations to deal with the issue.