Islands Trust to Disallow B&B Use with Proposed Changes to Bylaw 512

The Islands Trust is proposing changes to Bylaw 512 that will impact specific properties on Salt Spring, but the changes will also have an impact  on all of us. What the bylaw 512 says:

  • Adds the concept of a full-time rental cottage (2.1);
  • Rezones around 400 properties that currently allow a seasonal cottage to now allow a full-time rental cottage (2.3);
  • Disallows the use of any cottage for home based B&B (3.15.7): ” On lots where a full-time rental cottage is permitted, no seasonal or full-time rental cottage may be used as part of a bed-and-breakfast home-based business. “

What This Means:

If you are affected by this Bylaw then when it is adopted you will lose the right to use a seasonal cottage as part of a home based B&B business. This is true even if you don’t yet have a cottage, and regardless of whether you want to provide long term rental accommodation.

What You Can Do:

If you are OK with the Trust arbitrarily changing your zoning to remove key activities that are currently allowed, then you can relax!


Write to the Trust LTC members and tell them what your concerns and issues are (see below for my concerns)

You have the right to request that your property be removed from the Bylaw. This has to be approved by the LTC so isn’t guaranteed, but you should consider doing this in writing.

Attend the Public Hearing and speak up

18:30 Jan 28th at the Legion, 120 Blain Road

Attend any LTC committee meetings that have Bylaw 512 on the agenda and speak up

NOTE- even if you are not impacted by Bylaw 512 right now:

The Trust have been taking aim at home based B&Bs for at least 10 years, especially where seasonal cottages are involved.

The aggressive Bylaw enforcement that has happened to date is irrelevant if the Trust simply downzone properties to dis-allow B&B use. Just because you are not affected now doesn’t mean that you won’t be in the future. The Trust could easily extend this approach to all cottages on the island, or just dis-allow B&B as a home based use in general.

What is Wrong with Bylaw 512?

  • People have made major decisions based on the existing Bylaw, including choosing to move here, building cottages and setting up home bases B&B businesses. They may have made very different decisions if Bylaw 512 had been in effect. It simply isn’t acceptable to force a zoning change that has such a major impact on peoples lives and livelihoods.
  • For some of those people their home based B&B is a major part of their income and is what allows them to live on Salt Spring Island. Removing peoples livelihoods isn’t acceptable.
  • Being a landlord can be very challenging. Some people have no intention of making their cottages available to the general public for long term rental. If Bylaw 512 is adopted and enforced then those seasonal cottages may end up simply sitting empty.
  • This bylaw change will also impact property values as affected properties  would no longer be of interest to buyers who want the possibility of running a home based B&B business;
  • Seasonal cottages that are already built and conforms to the 602 sq ft limit cannot take advantage of the increased size allowance, but still get the disadvantage of not being able to use the cottage as a B&B;
  • A 602 sq ft seasonal cottage is perfect for short term use, as currently mandated by Bylaw 355. They are however very small and far less suitable as long term accommodation.
  • Its no secret that people are already renting their cottages long term, but do not necessarily want to lose the right to run a B&B. Bylaw 512 creates a very difficult situation. In order to claim a legal non-conforming use (aka “grandfathering”), they would need to evict their tenants and switch to B&B use before the Bylaw is adopted. Surely this is the opposite of what these changes are trying to achieve. ( Local Government Act, Part 14, Division 14 – Non-conforming Use and Other Continuations)
  • The latest updates to the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) disallowed “fixed term” tenancies. This means it’s against the RTA to rent a property for 6 months over the winter, and then “kick someone out” to make more money as a B&B over the summer. Anyone who rents to a tenant for more than 30 days is automatically bound by the RTA – whether or not they have a written agreement to any other effect.  So, removing B&B usage from seasonal cottages to legislate against this is redundant.

The responsibility for addressing the affordable and long terms rental issue on Salt Spring Island lies with the Trust and should not be off-loaded onto individual property owners by down-zoning their properties.

What about Grandfathering?

Being legally non-conformant, or grandfathering, is very different from being legal. As detailed in Local Government Act, Part 14, Division 14 – Non-conforming Use and Other Continuations being legally non conformant has the following requirements and issues:

  • The use has to exist on the day the Bylaw is adopted. This means that if you haven’t built or finished your cottage yet, you are currently providing long term accommodation, or are just taking a break from providing B&B on the day this Bylaw is adopted – then no grandfathering for you!
  • The use has to continue uninterrupted without any breaks of longer than 6 months. This means no taking a year off B&B, providing shelter for a friend or family member in need etc. You HAVE to keep running the B&B forever or you lose your grandfathering.
  • If the building is significantly damaged, for example in a fire or earthquake, and needs for than 75% rebuilding – you lose your grandfathering. This means that you could lose the use for situations that are beyond your control. This can also be an insurance issue.


The latest version of this proposed Bylaw can be found here
Bylaw 512 (current version)
Staff Reports, Correspondence etc
Public Hearing Package including zoning map
Local Government Act, Part 14, Division 14 – Non-conforming Use and Other Continuations

January 23, 2020 1:17 PM

Community Comments

  • Avatar Andy Ramesh Meyers says:

    It's ridiculous to say a 602 sq ft cottage is too small to be full time habitation.

  • Avatar Duncan Elsey says:

    I agree which is why I didn't say that. I said they are "far less suitable as long term accommodation." I was trying to keep the point brief so maybe the rationale is missing. My point was that cottages that were designed to 602 sqft based on the current bylaw, which only allows short term occupation, may not work as well for long term accommodation. For example our cottage has very little storage and no laundry because it didn't need those things. And now it's designed and built it's not that easy to add those things. I assume the Trust are increasing the sq ft allowance because they think a bit more space is useful for long term occupation. And again because my cottage is already built I don't get to take advantage of that even if I want to. So my issue is with moving the goal posts after the building is built!. I hope that helps.

  • Avatar lapslide says:

    Exactly my thought - my 2 kids were raised in a 700 sq ft home with 2 adults, a pet dog, and sometimes additional family member!

    I'm getting more serious about fighting for 200 sq ft main floor with loft being large enough for one person or a couple to live in full time, comfortably so. Humans are a very strange beast when they try to decide what is "normal" or "acceptable". Smaller homes offer an affordability that can be reached by many more looking to own their own home - it should not be necessary to own the land the home sits on.

    This bylaw seems to be a knee jerk reaction to the Trust's inability or ineffectiveness in enforcing the banning short term vacation rentals. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am totally against the concept of people having to rent their primary housing/home, with no opportunity to build equity - but along with this I am strongly opposed to any community, province or the country dictating what a homeowner can or cannot do with their property if they cause no harm to anyone else. B&Bs offer wonderful experiences when someone is travelling. I worried about what happens to neighbourhoods when entire houses or cottages are rented out absent of the owner being on-site, just make it a stipulation that a B&B has to be operated by the owner of the property and someone must cover for them any time they are absent. It would be a serious mistake to outlaw family operated B&Bs.

    Governments at all levels have to work on creating the circumstances that allow people more options to own, including building their own mobile or foundation, smaller footprint, newer tech (composting toilets, etc), the province must dismantle their punitive "owner/builder authorization" examination requirement, and the exemption for first time homeowners regarding property transfer tax must be extended in length of time beyond the ridiculous current one year to go from purchased property to occupancy permit and moving in. Allow homeowners on larger properties to offer space(s) for rent by installing whatever services are missing from making it possible to have tiny/small homes put on their property. Tiny homes can easily built on a foundation in a way to allow future moving without hiring very expensive service providers currently moving larger homes.

    18 years renting on Salt Spring I paid over $200,000, about four times the amount that it would cost me to build a very deluxe tiny home on wheels. When I left, due to no feasible rentals available on island, I took no equity with me from that "investment". I'm against the idea of pushing developers and homeowners towards building more rental housing. Primary housing should not be a profit center. Funny how there has been no loud opposition in the past to "investors" buying up more homes than they can live in and then renting them out. Funny how our private banks would offer the idea of buying more homes and renting them out as a good investment...

    With technology replacing labour in many industries over the past fifty years and our society's love affair with the mandate that everyone should be paying their own way in life, it seems ludicrous that operating a B&B would not be seen as a very honourable and useful work to be doing. Much better than putting in shifts working for a big box store at minimum wage and no benefits! If you're operating a legitimate B&B business in BC according to provincial laws and you're always on site when there are guests, I'd suggest you band together and consider a class action suit against your local government if they attempt to shut down your legitimate home based business. It's not your responsibility to provide full time housing to your fellow Canadians - that lies with your government representatives at the local, provincial and federal levels (MPs hold the purse strings and have thus far refused to release required cash into many areas of need in the nation).

  • Avatar Duncan Elsey says:

    Nicely written - thank you. Land Use Bylaw 355 does currently require that a home based B&B is operated by someone living on the property. I agree that this is a key requirement.

  • Avatar dpaine says:

    This post and the comments so far have really brought clarity. I have one question. Can a person own a property and be using the primary residence as an income generating revenue and also rent out the cottage at the same time, under the old rule and under the proposed by-law.? Would this not encourage some one from buying up all these properties and turning them into double generating properties , thus possibly driving up rents? And if we do turn these B and B cottages into long term rentals should we start thinking about rent control?

  • Avatar Duncan Elsey says:

    That's a really good question - I can't see anything that would disallow a 'double rental' but I would suggest raising the question with the Trust Planner for the Bylaw.

  • Avatar dpaine says:

    I saw a little bit one the Driftwood about the hearing. Do you have any comments or thoughts about what they decided or where next.?

  • Avatar Duncan Elsey says:

    I would never try to predict what the Trust will do next 🙂