To cap or not to cap? Planning commission weighs more on short-term rental debate

Short-term rentals continue to be a topic of debate and discussion in Routt County.
John F. Russell / Steamboat Pilot

A cap on short-term rentals may be in Steamboat Springs’ future.

Where the caps will be, how many rentals will fill a cap, and other details have yet to be determined. But, at a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 10, the Steamboat Springs planning commissioners agreed that they liked the idea of ​​caps to accompany overlapping areas, which the commission has been discussing for several months.

Stewards were instructed months ago to draw overlapping areas where short-term rentals will be permitted as of right, permitted only in specific circumstances and completely prohibited.

Those boundaries are still being drawn, but commissioners expressed support for allowing overnight rentals near the Steamboat Resort and on Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street, while only allowing them in certain circumstances in Old Town and neighborhoods. surrounding Walton Creek Road.

What are the rules?

Until 2021, Steamboat only needed a permit to rent vacation homes, which the city defines as homes with a backyard. Condos, bedrooms in a house, and other short-term rentals did not require a permit or license.

Because of this, the city had almost no way of knowing how many short-term rentals actually existed and relied primarily on reports from property managers and inaccurate and ever-changing data from rental tracking websites in short term.

In September 2021, the city began work with Granicus, a short-term rental licensing company tasked with bringing every unlicensed unit into compliance and providing 24/7 enforcement against nighttime tenants causing trouble. noise, litter or parking. Granicus has since tracked 3,020 short-term rental units across the city, with 98.6% of them being whole homes and only a small percentage being one bedroom or garage.

The yellow and green zones

Regarding caps, most commissioners agreed to have no limits in what will be the future green zone – or right –, because this zone is made up of second homes purchased near the station with the intention to rent short term.

Commissioners shared differing views on the future yellow zone – where overnight rentals could be allowed in certain circumstances, such as a full-time local renting out their home for weeks out of the year while on vacation or renting a basement or an additional bedroom.

The map shows the areas that the Stewards have proposed to be in the Entitlement, Restricted and Prohibited areas, with green, yellow and red representing each area. Light green represents a mix of housing for locals and visitors and can turn yellow or dark green. l Steamboat Springs/courtesy photo

Commission Chairman Brian Adams said residents renting their homes in the Yellow Zone for 100 days a year might sound good in theory, but those 100 days could attract tenants who create problems for their neighbors.

“I think a lot of it is a matter of perception, and it doesn’t matter if they’re there 250 days,” Adams said. “The 100 days they’re not there and they’re renting it out, and it’s noisy and there’s trash and all the complaints we’ve read over and over, that’s perceived as pretty much the whole thing for the neighbors .”

Commissioner David Baldinger Jr. said allowing landlords to rent part of the year and bring life to the neighborhood might be more ideal than a home that sits dark for months.

“I have several neighbors on my street who go south or leave during the winter,” Baldinger Jr. said. “Whether their house is vacant and I’m blowing snow in the driveway, or whether it’s a location and that there is a good application, as a citizen, I personally think it would be nice to have someone in the neighborhood.”

Baldinger Jr. also said residents against short-term rentals may change their minds after seeing the city’s first serious enforcement with Granicus, as residents have always relied on the police department to enforce the rules in the past.

Yet many commissioners believed that even having to call an enforcement officer would prevent someone from letting their neighbor rent overnight to a visitor.

“If I have to call the police eight times a year, that could be two weeks’ rental, but that’s enough to dissuade me from thinking that’s a good idea,” Commissioner Lou Tortora said. “Whether it’s 120 days and whether you know the person or not, the onus of enforcement is on the person concerned, which I think is so backward.”

Baldinger Jr. also said Steamboat is stretched for space at hotels, so often short-term rentals are the only option for visitors in town.

“We are very underserved as a community with hotels and housing, and part of our housing base is definitely multi-family units,” Baldinger Jr. said.

In the past, commissioners have also pointed out that the same multi-family homes that many buy to rent overnight are being used as affordable housing for low-wage residents.

The details of a cap

As commissioners dug deeper into the weeds of what a cap should be and where they should go, planning director Rebecca Bessey cautioned commissioners against being too specific on either side of crafting the rules.

“Too many exceptions could dilute the concept of caps,” Bessey said. “The more we complicate the policy, the harder it is to enforce and track compliance.”

Still, the commissioners felt the caps were what most of the community wanted, as most of those who completed the Engage Steamboat survey Asked what short-term rental policies locals supported said they wanted stricter rules.

“I want to see a number below 3,020,” Commissioner Jessica Hearns said. “I want to see a lower number than the status quo because the community has told us time and time again that the status quo is not what they want.”

Commissioners agreed that caps should not be set across the board, but rather by looking at the density and character of each street on an individual basis.

At the same time, commissioners supported caps in overlay areas, as overlay areas provide a clearer picture of where overnight rentals are and are not permitted.

The fairness of a cap

Although most Engage Steamboat respondents said they wanted short-term rentals to be limited in certain areas, some commissioners questioned whether or not a cap for these units was fair to owners.

“If we add the first-come, first-served cap, we are now playing favorites,” Commissioner Martyn Kingston said. “We sort of favor one property over another, and I want equity to be brought into the conversation.”

Commissioners will hold a working session on Monday, February 14 to continue the discussion.

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