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'We've heard complaints:' Newmarket mayor speaks on alleged Airbnb murder house

John Taylor said his staff is looking at a new bylaw focusing on short-term rentals
Oct. 8, 2019
Jeremy Grimaldi

About 45 days ago, residents on Newmarket's Colter Street -- a neighbourhood that saw a man shot to death, while in his car, by two armed men on Oct. 4 -- knew something was different about the home at 791 Colter.

Neighbours on the other side of the street began receiving door knocks by young people at about 1 a.m. wondering where the party house was, according to a resident who did not want her name used.

Then at 3 a.m., police were called as the party grew out of control and too loud for sleeping neighbours.

After a number of partygoers scattered, running through backyards, residents later located cellphones belonging to them in the grass.

Soon after this, at least one resident called the town of Newmarket to complain about how the home was being offered for short-term rentals, according that same resident on Colter.

They are not the first Newmarket residents to complain about issues surrounding Airbnb in town.

There have been a number of issues regarding residential homes being used for short-term rentals.

On Friday at around 9 p.m. the issue took centre stage as two armed men exited their dark-coloured sedan and began firing guns into a white Ford SUV sitting parked in the driveway at 791 Colter, according to York Regional Police Const. Andy Pattenden.

Residents suggest there were about 10 bullets fired, some of them breaking glass, others becoming lodged in the vehicle.

As a result, one man was killed and a woman was shot in the thigh, the force added.

Airbnb then added its voice to the chorus condemning the violence.

“The senseless violence reported is abhorrent and has no place in the Airbnb community, and our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by this incident," the company wrote. "We have removed the booking guest from our platform and we stand ready to support York Regional Police in their investigation”

In the aftermath of the shooting, a resident named Sandy, who did not want her last name published, said that despite residents' complaints, the town of Newmarket has done nothing to stop the rentals at the address.

Mayor John Taylor told that something is actually being done on the issue.

“We have heard from residents across town in different circumstances,” he said. “We have heard some complaints of varying degrees, none as serious as this. We will be looking at (short-term and Airbnb rentals) closely. Staff are already gearing up.”

However, he added the town must take a “balanced approached” considering this type of incident is the outlier.

“There are also advantages to Airbnb, he added. “We need to look at this more and strengthen the rules, but we also have to remember that lots of people in our communities take advantage of (their services). We have heard from residents, but a lot of work needs to be done.”

He added that a public consultation needs to be completed before any bylaw is enacted.

Taylor also further spoke about the killing.

“It’s tragic and disturbing,” he said. “Whenever someone dies in an unnecessary manner, it’s sad. When it’s related to gun violence, it’s very disturbing. We seem to be seeing this more often in Newmarket and the GTA.”

He further noted that he wants to extend a hand to any politician or group that would like to sit down and speak about how to limit gun violence in our communities.