Questions raised over zoning proposal for kennel, Airbnb in Mapleton

MAPLETON – A public meeting on a rezoning proposal to permit a dog breeding kennel and recognize an existing bed and breakfast use on a rural property drew questions about lost tax revenue and respect for bylaws from some Mapleton councillors.

The Jan. 16 public meeting was held to consider a proposal from Cleon and Christine Martin for a zoning amendment to permit a breeding kennel and recognize an existing bed and breakfast (Airbnb) use in a separate structure from the main residence on their nine-acre agricultural property on Highway 6.

A Mapleton planning department report notes the township’s zoning bylaw prohibits kennels unless they are specifically permitted by an amendment and use of accessory residential units for a short-term rental (Airbnb) is not permitted and would require a special zoning provision to allow this use to continue.

The application indicates the proposed breeding kennel would house 12 to 15 dogs for breeding purposes only (no boarding).

The proposed kennel buildings are existing and no new buildings are proposed.

The owners have indicated the breeding kennel has been in operation for a number of years, however there are presently only three dogs on site, a number allowed under current township regulations.

The report states the owners renovated the upper level of an existing accessory structure into a residential unit “without the benefit of a building permit.”

At the time the space was converted, the report notes, the zoning did not permit accessory residential units, but under the current bylaw the use is now permitted.

The report indicates there are several buildings on the property currently housing animals such as kangaroos, birds, lemurs, goats, etc.

The kennel buildings are combined with some buildings that also house these exotic animals. Based on the application the combined floor area of all buildings (excluding the main residence) equals approximately 6,519 square feet.

“Further clarification of the use of the buildings is required in order to categorize them accordingly. Relief may also be required,” the report states.

Cleon Martin explained that since 2004 the couple has operated on a small scale, breeding purebred chocolate Labrador retrievers.

“We have been members of the Canadian Kennel Club since we began and all our puppies have always been registered with them,” stated Martin.

“We take pride in raising our dogs in a humane way and staying connected with the puppy buyers after they leave with their new pets.”

He added, “As we head into retirement, we would love to be able to continue supporting our property and passion for these pets with the approval of an amendment for a breeding kennel.”

Martin said the Airbnb use initially evolved to accommodate visiting family members.

“As our property grew to become a more diverse hobby farm, the dwelling unit has become an enjoyable place for people to stay for short weekend getaways as it was made available on Airbnb when our family was not visiting,” he said.

One neighbouring resident, the only member of the public to speak at the meeting, stated she has lived next to the Martins for five years and “had no concerns with the Airbnb or the kennel.”

Noting the reference to kangaroos in the report, councillor Marlene Ottens said. “This is clearly something different.

“I’d like to see whatever can be done to make something as interesting and diverse as this work within our township. But, you know, everybody has to follow the rules.”

Ottens pointed out township regulations seemingly allow for traditional bed and breakfast operations, but not Airbnbs.

“I know there are other Airbnbs listed within Mapleton Township because I checked that out … So do we need regulations? Do we need permitting for an Airbnb?” she asked.

Township planning and development manager Michelle Brown explained, “Airbnb is just like saying Kleenex, it’s just an online marketing piece.

“We do have provisions for bed and breakfasts as defined and there’s lots of variety around that.”

Brown added, “It’s just that the way that our bylaws have always been written, is that it’s meant to be in the principal residence.

“So it’s not that a bed and breakfast isn’t allowed. It’s just that it was created outside of the principal residence in an accessory facility that was not meant to have an accessory unit in it.”

Now that township bylaws permit accessory residential facilities, council could permit the use if it chooses, Brown noted.

“It needs to be brought up to code and have the proper building permit completed and they can continue to operate it as is,” she stated.

However, township planner Linda Redmond noted the intent behind allowing accessory residential units “is to provide affordable living for the general public.

“So if people are going to create these units under the zoning bylaw and then use them as short-term rental, that defeats the purpose of them.”

Councillor Amanda Reid asked if the owners had been paying taxes at an agricultural rate, even though commercial uses of the property have existed.

“That is correct. We did check,” said Brown.

“I find applications like this extremely frustrating,” said councillor Michael Martin.

“We’ve got an awful lot of things happening on the property that were not in compliance with what the township bylaws are, the building department, the planning department and applications like this kind of fly in the face of people who do it by the book when they submit legitimate applications well in advance of constructing buildings.”

He added, “Mapleton is full of licensed kennels. I’m not convinced that we need another one, to be honest.

“And it’s also full of unlicensed kennels and breeding operations that have received a fair amount of media, and rightly so. It’s a concern.”

“The issue at hand is the non-compliance over the years and now the family is working with staff to come into compliance with the building code and with the council and with the use of the short-term rental. So they are now working with the township to fix all the past errors,” Mayor Gregg Davidson pointed out.

Martin asked if there were provisions for building and planning fees that were never paid on the un-permitted building?

Chief building official Tim Schwartzentruber explained there are penalties under Mapleton’s current fees and charges bylaw, but not as severe as some municipalities, which can double the original fees.

“The penalty is quite less severe than in neighbouring municipalities here in Mapleton,” said Schwartzentruber.

“When we look at taxes that have been charged to this property since it’s been used commercially, is there any implications there for penalties or does it just change and going forward?” asked Reid.

“Once MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) realizes that the assessment should be increased, they will increase it for the current and two prior years,” replied Mapleton finance director John Morrison.

Council received the planning department report for information.

The report states a recommendation report and amending bylaw will be prepared for consideration once outstanding issues have been clarified.