Contact Us

Contact Us and Provide Your Comments

If you would like to be notified of upcoming open houses, public meetings, and other events please send your name, address, telephone number, and email address to:

Jeff Leunissen, MCIP, RPP
Manager of Development Services
City of Stratford
82 Erie Street, 2nd floor
Stratford, ON  N5A 2M4
Phone: (519) 271-0250 Ext. 221
Fax: (519) 271-5966
Email: jleunissen@stratfordcanada.ca

We welcome your comments on the City’s Comprehensive Zoning By-law Review, which may be provided in the space below:

 

 

 

11 responses to “Contact Us

  1. I would like to address my comments and feedback to the issue of Airbnb and whether its use should be controlled or restricted by the City of Stratford. As a small business owner my partner and I responded to the call from Mayor Matheson in 2014 to provide Student Accommodations for the full time students attending the University of Waterloo Stratford campus. This meant that we invested in the purchase and renovation of a century old home in the downtown area. We worked closely with the City’s Building department to ensure that all renovations were done to the appropriate standards with the full knowledge of the City and our close neighbors for the intended use of the home. We are very please with the assistance provided by the City and the cooperation of our good neighbors. However it has been our realization that the demand for student housing and though somewhat the format of the University course we can not maintain a year around income from the property. Our best efforts generate an 8 month lease form students attending the University. We have backfilled the summer months with rentals from the Festival Theater (2015) and Children’s Festival (2016). We feel that through Airbnb and the emerging social economy can backfill some of the lost revenue through the summer months. We feel that we would be catering to a new and different market than may be considered in the traditional Bed and Breakfast industry. We would not be onsite for our guests stay. We would not be providing breakfast or food to our guests. Our home is first and foremost a student rental. we do not believe that it would appeal to those who would traditionally visit Stratford, attend the Festival and enjoy the comforts of a home cooked breakfast. We believe that the social economy is evolving and that needs and whishes of all visitors to our city can be provided without undo hardships on any one sector.
    We thank you for the opportunity to provide comments and feedback.
    Paul & Nancy
    MACORR HOLDINGS

  2. Mary Smith

    Hi Jeff,

    We need a bylaw that allows people to rent their homes or apts to Airbnb clients. Airbnb and VRBO are two websites that prove this is a movement that will not be stopped. Just look at the cities dealing with the UBER issue. People want these services. The city can either be proactive like Edmonton is with UBER and collect reasonable licensing fees for Airbnb hosts, or they can waste resources on trying to stop it as the people will go underground.

    A lot of people do not want to rent a room in Bed and Breakfasts here in town due to privacy and cost. When you go into someones house, how does one know that there are no hidden camera’s in the bedrooms? We just had a 50yr old Stratford resident charged for child pornography and with the development of Go Pro and infra red camera’s, one could hide a camera quite easily and have it uploaded onto the internet in seconds.

    If there is no licensing for short term rentals, then the city will suffer economically. I am renting my property this June to kids and their chaperone’s coming to town for the Childrens Choir. They cannot afford hotels or B and B’s for the 10 days they are here in Stratford. Would it not be better for them to come to Stratford and stay for a reasonable price rather than have them gouged and a negative experience having to pay $125-$200 per night per room at a hotel? As it stands right now I am in current by law violations by renting to them. This is ridiculous!!

    When tourists come to town to see world class theatre, a lot would prefer to have a home style setting while on vacation. They want to be able to have a coffee and a bowl of cereal for breakfast for a reasonable price vs having to eat out 3x a day. If all of the hotels are full and they don’t trust the privacy of a B and B, then they will get a hotel in Kitchener or even London during peak season in July and August. I know this personally having worked at a hotel in Stratford during my college years.

    If these tourists stay out of town, they will eat out of town, shop out of town and get gas out of town. All of this revenue is lost for our local businesses due to the lack of hotels during the Theatre season. This is huge dollars our city loses when this happens.

    The only reason the B and B owners are complaining about Airbnb is because they know that competition can drive prices down for them. Competition keeps people honest and it is what the public wants. It is hilarious that some B and B owners have their properties on the Airbnb website yet they are trying to shut down the same website some of their own members are using. Why are those B and B owners using Airbnb, because they know the public wants a different choice and uses that website.

    A lady down the street rents one of her properties to the University students at the Stratford Campus. She tells me that the students will only rent for 8 months due to the lack of ability to sublet to other students during the summer. There are no current summer programs at the Stratford Campus so no students need housing from May till the end of Aug. How does a student renter pay their mortgage and bills during these months? If one can’t rent their property through Airbnb then you will see a lot of student rentals go back to traditional renters. Is this what the city wants? I doubt the University would like that as they are having a hard enough time convincing students to come live here in the first place.

    I get why the B and B owners are grumbling. They are having to pay licensing fees for a product that is becoming outdated. Rather than overpay for a B and B like the new owners did for the Bristol House on Mornington St, they need to do their due diligence next time and realize their business plan is outdated for todays travellers, Just look at what happened to Blackberry when the public told them that they like the other cell phone options call Apple and Samsung. They could not stop the movement because that is what people wanted and what the public wants, eventually the public will get.

    Sincerely,

    Mary Smith

  3. Jagdish Patel

    I am a business owner in town who has dabbled with both student renters and airbnb both here and in Toronto. My girlfriend and I also answered the call to the University and the City when they said they needed affordable student housing now that the University of Waterloo is downtown.

    We bought a semi for the purpose of renting it out to 3 students. We have enjoyed both Masters and Undergrad students to our property. Unfortunately the students are only here for 8months yet we have bills year round. We have no other option but to explore airbnb as it is impossible to find renters from May to Aug every summer for our semi. Traditional renters want the semi longer than 4 months so they are not an option.

    If we have to stop advertising on airbnb, then we will stop renting to the University students and quite possibly sell our semi due to the lack of cashflow produced from regular tenants in this town. In my hometown of Brampton, we do not have these issues. Stratford is such a beautiful city and we would hate to have to invest our money elsewhere.

    Jagdish Patel

  4. Michael Tanner

    Dear Sir,

    I am a successful student renter in Waterloo and Guelph. My family has been investing in these areas for the past 15yrs. When we heard that Stratford was opening up a satellite campus for U of W, we decided to purchase a property close to downtown. We liked the fact that it would be 3rd, 4th yr and Masters students as we only rent to those ages in Waterloo and Guelph due to maturity.

    We quickly found out that the University has a low population (around 200 students) and the school does not currently offer year round programs. Students know this and refuse to sign 12 month leases due to the inability to sublet.

    What are our options? Sell the house as we can’t rent it to tenants in the summer for 4mths, or put it on Airbnb for theatre people to use in the summer months. We love Stratford as we have friends here and that’s how we fell in love with the city.

    Now we have heard from our friends that we cannot use our property thru Airbnb as the Bed and Breakfast owners are not happy with people using Airbnb as they are losing business. We do not want to create any animosity in your lovely town, but if we can’t use our property for its highest and best use in the summer, we will just take our business back to areas that make better financial sense.

    We hope that your new bylaw rules that are said to be coming out in May include our situation. I’m sure the University and the City do not want to lose quality student housing for its limited students.

    Kind Regards,

    Michael Tanner

  5. Stratford has an imperative to pay attention to the social and cultural changes being enabled by services (and technology) like AirBnB. By taking a proactive and fair stance on zoning, the city can support a full range of accommodation options that cater to the full range of visitors to our city. Just as the food and culinary scene has evolved and grown significantly in the past decade, so too should the hospitality options. As a millennial who grew up in Stratford and now travels frequently, I have come to rely upon and benefit from the service and experience Airbnb offers, both in Europe and North America. I have stayed in more than a dozen different homes in the past 2 years, and I do so because it offers flexibility, lower prices and a chance to experience a town or city from the vantage point of a resident. In particular, being able to cook for ourselves and the comfort/privacy of an entire apartment or house means that we are able to fully relax and enjoy a new environment.

    On the other side of the coin, homeowners want the freedom to travel and sublet elsewhere, and to rent their houses out while they are away to cover their costs. They should have the right to rent their homes to other people – as they do in most places around the world. Stratford’s current by-laws are restrictive of owners’ fundamental rights. It is not like people put up signs or conduct business out of their homes. They have one party staying at the property at any given time, and as they are not there, there are no more people on the premises than usual. This is a very different service from B&Bs and hotels. It is a short-term rental/sublet. The owner takes responsibility for the guest’s experience and behaviour. The guests take their chances, and are not provided with services like breakfast or advice unless the host chooses to provide them. Airbnb appeals to people who want basic accommodation at reasonable prices. It is essentially a private transaction, and the city should not get entangled in this exchange, nor should it get caught up spending time protecting entrenched interests. It should follow the lead of many other cities and municipalities globally and recognize and support this new form of service.

    Stratford’s cultural heritage and historical roots in the tradition of the Shakespearean Festival can and should be compatible with the wants and needs of a modern society. This means being intelligent about zoning so that Airbnb has a place in the accommodation spectrum. It will certainly encourage more young people to come to the city, to come to the theatre. That is clearly in everyone’s interest: As young people become enamoured by the city’s many offerings, over time their needs and wants will change, and in 10-20 years they may be the next customers for the traditional options (hotels and Bed and Breakfasts). Let’s not let short-term thinking, territorial battles and a zero-sum mindset blind the city. We can do better.

  6. Juist two quick questions regarding Section 4.3 as it applies to B&BN’s. Perhaps I missed it in the document, but if you could please clarify;

    1) The exact definition of an accessory guest room- as defined by the city presently & as it pertains to the bylaw update.

    2) Again, perhaps I missed it, but I did not see any reference in the document with respect to how the city plans to enforce the licensing of B&B’s- again with respect to the proposed changes to the bylaw. This has been an issue for some time under the current bylaw. I would be interested to see how this is going to be addressed moving forward.

    Thank you,

    Kevin Watts
    Hathaway’s Cottage

    • jleunissenstratfordcanadaca

      Kevin, our response to your questions are below:
      1) There is one change between the existing definition and the proposed definition, “that is provided for a fee” has been removed from the proposed definition.
      2) Neither the existing zoning by-law nor the proposed zoning by-law contain provisions on how the by-law is to be enforced. The existing By-law contains provisions on Violations and Penalties and the proposed by-law contains provisions on Penalties.
      Council has previously directed to staff to investigate violations on a complaint basis. I cannot say if Council will direct that we alter from this approach.
      Jeff Leunissen

  7. janette@closknit.ca

    The regulation of short term accommodation should not be forced by the Bed & Breakfast owners’ position of advocacy which is founded in their experience of losing market share. That market may be just the market that Stratford needs to maintain and increase its economic tourist viability.

    Why is short term accommodation important for Stratford?

    Market share and potential business loss cannot be a rationale for regulation. Complaints by hotel owners may have led to the regulation of Bed & Breakfast owners; we now see complaints by Bed & Breakfast owners directed at short term accommodation operators and a call for an even playing field. They may not talk about loss of business, but this is surely part of the issue. There are visitors to Stratford that want short term accommodations and this trend should be optimized, not ignored.

    Short term accommodation introduces a new kind of offering – one that is becoming increasingly popular and which could be of great benefit to Stratford. Many visitors are looking for more home-like settings because they would like to stay longer. If people stay in Stratford longer will they spend more money? Will they attend more plays or dine out more often? Will they spend more free time shopping? What would happen to Festival related revenue if the average length of stay went up?

    Short term accommodations should introduce alternatives that are presently not being served for which there is a market. By-laws and permit processes should not introduce controls that are counter to economic development.

    Fair and Equitable Treatment for All Accommodation Providers

    The short term accommodation by-law should be written to address the opportunity that such a development provides for a city with a tourism interest. It is apparent that the by-law is being written to appease the submission and advocacy of the Bed & Breakfast owners. This was verbally confirmed at the Public Information Centre #2 meeting and in direct communication with short term accommodation property owners that had been in contact with staff members at Development Services. This is short sighted and unfair. There is evidence of this bias in the draft by-law, especially in comparison of zones in which short term accommodation is permissible compared to the affordances for Bed & Breakfast establishments.

    The language for the short term accommodations is vague in comparison to that for Bed & Breakfast establishments. The phrase “may be permitted” is used for short term accommodations, whereas the phrase for Bed & Breakfast establishments simply states where and what number of rooms. Does this mean that there will be another filtering layer with the by-law being just the starting point? The by-law should use clear and unambiguous language to be fairly executed. If using “may be” terminology for short term accommodation is appropriate, so should it be for Bed & Breakfast establishments.

    The number of opportunities proposed for short term accommodations is extremely limited by the collector and arterial road restriction. The Bed & Breakfast zones are far more lenient and yet, in many cases the use is identical. This is neither fair nor equitable.

    Limiting the Supply of Short Term Accommodation

    Given the severe limitations to collector and arterial roads, the supply of attractive accommodation options under the draft by-law will be not enable the appropriate growth of this desirable alternative. Does the study process for the consideration and regulation of short term accommodations include analysis and research to understand the opportunity for tourism growth?

    The by-law for short term accommodation is written using permission language – this is perhaps appropriate, but where is the encouragement for the community to provide high quality accommodation options? While this may not be in the scope of a zoning by-law, for a tourism oriented economy – should there not be some investigation of this? Anecdotally, in our shop we hear positive feedback about short term accommodations and we are of the opinion that longer stays are more likely with alternative accommodations that are more often like an apartment setting. The market for this kind of accommodation is growing along with the web services that enable it. How will Stratford respond in a positive manner to optimize the advantage for all business owners?

    What alternatives are short term visitors looking for?

    Many people have been testing the opportunity to provide alternative accommodation as hosts, and have heard loud and clear that there is a strong demand for the kind of accommodation they can provide. Input from potential visitors to Stratford – those seeking this kind of alternative – should be a part of the process to revise the by-law. It is not clear how customer demand and demographics are being analyzed as part of the by-law revision process. How will the customer’s voice be heard?

    High Quality Accommodation and Rating Transparency

    Web based accommodation services provide an opportunity for properties to be rated by customers. This is both an incentive to improve quality and enables confidence and choice. This may well be a key reason why these web services have grown so quickly and have such a strong customer loyalty. Other services like this continue to be added to the traveler’s alternatives. Stratford should have a strong presence with these services – especially looking ahead as the demographic of visitors shifts to a more digital cohort.

    Is there a way to mine the qualitative data from prior short term accommodation visits that have utilized web services and maintain guest and host reviews?

    Is there an opportunity to include a quality standard or some features of accommodation quality as part of the licensing process for both short term accommodations and Bed & Breakfast establishments?

    Secondary Use Clause

    Language in the proposed by-law cites that both Bed & Breakfast establishments and short term accommodations must be secondary to the main residential use.

    “4.3.4 a) the bed and breakfast establishment shall be a secondary use to the main residential use
    of the single detached dwelling and the operators shall maintain the residential character
    of the dwelling; and …”

    “4.28.3 a) the short term rental accommodation shall be a secondary use to the main residential use
    of the single detached dwelling and exterior alterations to the dwelling shall not be
    permitted; …”

    Clarification on this requirement is needed. Presently, there are many Bed & Breakfast operations that are de facto small businesses. Is a home with 4 rooms rented and 1 room for the permanent resident, primarily a residence? An argument could surely be made that this is a business and that the potential residential disruption of such a business and it’s operation is considerable. Many of the vacation apartments formerly offered as short term accommodations were clearly secondary use, and yet the city permits these de facto Bed & Breakfast businesses to operate in residential neighbourhoods, when they are clearly operating as a business and not a secondary use to the main residential use.

    Licensing Process

    How will the permit process be developed? Is this open to suggestions and ideas?

    What is missing from the by-law that will need to be part of the permit process?

    How might the permit process address safety, quality and community concerns?

    How long will it take to develop a permit process? Is this to occur after the promulgation of the approved by-law change? Why not proceed in parallel to expedite the launch of short term accommodations as soon as the by-law is in force?

    Could the permit process enable a review of specific use cases? For example, the suggestion that there be student housing with seasonal short term accommodation hybrid use.

    Could the permit process be used to inform neighbours of an application for use as a short term accommodation to address concerns? This could counter the blanket restriction of short term accommodations implicit in the limit to only those with frontage on collector and arterial roads clause.

    Safety

    What safety concerns are unique to short term accommodation rentals?

    How will the safety of visitors, hosts and neighbours be protected?

    Safety of residential accommodation should be the same for all dwellings. Requirements for fire protection and alarms, electrical and environmental safety should be part of the permit process.

    Some online rental services have extensive user controls and privacy protections. These have been instituted as part of the service and are considered essential for these systems’ success and popularity. Part of the permit process might include a requirement for privacy and security. Any safety or security measures established for short term accommodations should also be required in other like permits.

    In closing, why not use the same permit system for both short term accommodations and Bed & Breakfast establishments? This approach may save both time and tax payer’s money. This would provide an equal playing field for all. This would address the Bed & Breakfast establishments concerns and allow for a timely acceptance of alternative short term accommodations in the City. Niagara-on-the Lake, a competitor for tourism dollars, has just this kind of approach to their accommodations.

    Janette Richards
    Co-Owner of
    CloseKnit Quality Yarns,
    106 Wellington Street,
    Stratford, ON N5A 2L5

  8. Terry Finlay

    Please contact me regarding further meetings about Air B and B in Stratford.

  9. I am Toronto based but grew up in Stratford and it has always been ‘my home’. For the past two years I have invested my most of my time and all of my money [and more] improving 94 Wellington and 24 Wellington. But i needed a base for myself. AirBnB helps me afford a little house down the road on Wellington. Taking in guests makes it affordable. I use it for my work base but also to entertain family and friends in the summer.
    I dont comply with current rules because:
    > Not my primary residence
    > Not on a main street [well it is a block from me].
    >It has 5 little bedrooms
    >It has tandem parking for 4 cars

    Yet it suits my guests perfectly. Often a family. Often one or two cars or bikes.
    You may think neighbours have to put up with noise but until recently, my guests had to put up with a dreadful and embarassing level of noise from the neighbours. I have ‘no party’ rules in place etc. Probably AirBnB guests are quieter than many local families. Anyway, I know the B’n B people hate the competition but I don’t think they would want my guests:
    > Visitors with dogs
    > Visitors with special needs
    > Visitors who want a whole house for the price of many a B ‘n B room.
    > Visitors who want to be alone together.
    Air B’nB is a lot of work. Hosts put a lot of effort into their rentals. Perhaps, as they tire of the exercise, there will be a glut of up to standard rentable units for long term. I did try to rent my house for a longer term when funds were particularly low but had no takers. The short term rentals do not make me rich. They allow me a toe hold in a place i love and support my desire to create good things in Stratford. I am sure the city will realize that short term space sharing is a very complementary part of Shaping Stratford for the future.
    I hope so. Or I for one will pack up my bags, cut my ties, and revert to being an occasional visitor instead of a part of the community i still love.

  10. lorraine bromley

    So we are supposed to pick 4 Priorities from a list on the website,Then we are to pick from 4 options, status Quo, ect ect. Yet when directed to comment there is no form that recognizes the options other than a downloadable print out that has to be mailed in? Or you must email Jeff. Why would the city not have a form based on the questions it is asking in a link that allows a person to fill out the questionnaire and hit send? Smart City? Or am I just not finding this easy way to send feedback in that type of forum.

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