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Victoria council overturns decision to deny B&B operator a business licence

Co-owner says city staff, in enforcing new rules around short-term vacation rentals, may have mistakenly denied the renewal
Humboldt Bed and Breakfast has operated as a bed and breakfast for decades, its owners say. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria city council has overturned a decision by its inspector to deny a business licence to a bed and breakfast whose owners say it was mistakenly caught up in a crackdown on short-term vacation rentals.

A 7-2 vote by council means Humboldt Bed and Breakfast, at 867 Humboldt St., will be eligible for a licence to operate this year. Mayor Marianne Alto and Coun. Krista Loughton had voted to uphold the original decision.

“It sure was a relief,” co-owner Matthew Linnitt said in a statement to the Times Colonist. “We’re grateful that city council decided to correct it.”

Linnitt said he and co-owner Ashley Ceraldi are “strongly supportive” of the measures taken by the province and the city to tackle the housing crisis, including prohibiting short-term rentals that aren’t in a principal residence.

He believes city staff, in enforcing the new rules, may have been confused and made a mistake in denying the business licence renewal application.

“As a small family business, we do wish that the city staff had been more co-operative and willing to work with us to fix this mistake, instead of forcing us to go through a lengthy and costly appeal process,” Linnitt said.

According to the submissions from both sides in the dispute, the business was denied a transient accommodation business licence.

The city claimed while the property is zoned RK-8, Humboldt Bed & Breakfast District, which permits transient accommodation, Humboldt House is not a bed and breakfast in form or function.

City staff argued the structure has been altered so that it is no longer a single-family dwelling with six bedrooms available to rent for bed and breakfast, and instead the business has done short-term rentals out of the units since February last year.

The city also argued that, because of unpermitted renovation work, the building no longer qualifies as a single-family dwelling and, as a result, does not comply with the use allowed under the RK-8 Bed and Breakfast Zone.

Linnitt and Ceraldi pointed out that the building has operated as a bed and breakfast for decades and when they bought it in 2022 they did so on the understanding the zoning permitted use as a B&B.

They also said they did not know the renovations had been done without permits and argued the issue should not colour the business licence process. They argued the term “bed and breakfast” is poorly defined in the bylaw.

In their submissions to council, Linnitt and Ceraldi‘s legal counsel wrote: “The appellants run a small family business, mistakenly caught up in the city’s efforts to crack down on short-term rentals. Shutting them down without notice would be unreasonable and unfair, and would have a catastrophic ­financial impact on their ­family.”

In overturning the decision, some city councillors said the city seems to be operating in a grey zone, with a vague definition of what a bed and breakfast is, while amending bylaws to better align with provincial housing regulations.

“We are in this transitional period right now and I am concerned that applicants or appellants who, at least to my mind, appear to be acting in good faith, have perhaps been caught up in these pretty large bureaucratic changes that are having potentially some unintended consequences,” said Coun. Jeremy Caradonna.

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