Steamship likely to extend moratorium on vacation home rentals until June 30

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John F. Russell / Steamboat Pilot and Today

A majority of Steamboat Springs city council members agreed on Tuesday that they would like to explore extending the moratorium on new vacation home rental permits until June 30.

The council did not take a vote, but its members called on planning director Rebecca Bessey and city attorney Dan Foote to bring back an order that would extend the moratorium. Once the ordinance goes to council, at least four members will need to vote “yes” at first and second reading for it to pass.

History of the moratorium

Council members first addressed the issue in June after several community members expressed concerns about the impact of short-term rentals on the city.

During several discussions, council members identified two negative impacts of the practice: the potential role of short-term rentals on the city’s housing crisis and the problems of excessive noise, waste, traffic and parking. witnessed by residents who live near short-term rentals. .

To address the second concern, which council identified as “neighborhood character,” members voted a moratorium to restrict owners who wish to obtain a vacation home rental license from doing so.

City staff suggested the moratorium so that the planning commission and city council could consider some policies regarding short-term rentals.

The moratorium has since been extended several times. In October, council members also voted to remove certain streets surrounding Steamboat Resort from the moratorium, as some members felt those streets would likely be free from any restrictions council may place on where an overnight rental can operate.

At the end of 2020, council members also agreed to hire a short-term rental regulator called Granicus, which has been tasked with forcing all short-term rentals in town to be licensed. Granicus will also have a 24/7 hotline that residents can call if an overnight tenant in their area is a problem.

Tuesday’s discussion

Bessey suggested extending the moratorium to give town planning commissioners enough time to continue their discussion of overlap areas.

“I’m in favor of a longer duration, so that we have enough time to go through the process and don’t have to keep revisiting and extending,” Bessey said. “But I also understand that it’s a matter of time, and we have to be reasonable and move on.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, five board members also agreed to consider capping short-term rentals, and four members wanted to ask for a vacancy tax on second homes, which would then be allocated to housing initiatives. affordable. There are seven seats on the board.

Council member Michael Buccino, who called for the moratorium to be lifted on Jan.30, said he was not concerned about a “gold rush” of permit applications, which other council members have said. cited as a reason for extending the policy.

“It is more important to me that we put the licenses in place, that Granicus can start to enforce the laws and that we put teeth in the bad actors, so that they lose the privilege of renting these houses,” said Buccino. “Let this system take hold and stop confusing the community. “

Since council removed areas from the moratorium in October, the city’s planning department has received 14 permit applications from owners of those streets, according to information received from a request for open files. Of the 14 applications, the city has so far approved three.

In comparison, the city generally receives around twenty applications per year.

“I think the floodgates have opened,” said Heather Sloop, board member. “The moratorium is working because the small area we authorized has now granted 14 in six weeks, and to me that just shows that if the moratorium is lifted, more would be allowed. “

Other council members wanted to extend the moratorium to give Granicus time to get off to a good start and clear the estimated thousands of unauthorized short-term rentals.

“We don’t have all of the information we’re looking for,” board member Joella West said. “While I realize there are people who want this to go away altogether, I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to solve the problem that the community would like.”

AirDNA, a website that tracks the number of existing short-term rentals in communities, estimated there were 2,721 units in Steamboat Springs as of Friday afternoon. Only a small fraction of these have permits with the city, and Granicus aims to secure a license for each nightly rental unit over the next year. l AirDNA / courtesy graphic

Should neighbors play a role?

Some council members said they would prefer a system where neighbors who live near a landlord looking for a short-term rental permit can decide whether the unit gets one or not.

“We have seen an increasing disruption of short-term rentals negatively impacting our quality of life,” said Karen Desjardin, a Snowflake Circle resident who wrote a letter to city council, which she also shared with Steamboat Pilot & Today.

“We are concerned that any future restrictions or short-term rental overlays will concentrate these rentals in areas such as ours, further degrading the quality of life on our street,” she continued.

In contrast, Buccino felt it was unfair for neighbors to get together and agree to deny a homeowner’s permit.

“I would prefer that we had an app that has really good teeth that takes away the privilege of having a vacation home rental, as opposed to having the neighbors dictate someone’s private property rights,” Buccino said. .

Foote said it would be illegal for the city to ask every neighbor to speak up and use their input to make a final decision, but there could be other ways for owners of adjacent properties to have their say.

“We cannot delegate a yes or a no to the popularity of the neighbors,” Foote said. “The way to do this is to create criteria that address issues of interest, like garbage, noise, or parking. “

Still, council members felt it was unfair that neighbors had no say in the process, so they tasked town planning commissioners to find a way for neighborhoods to give their opinion and to make their voice heard by the city before a permit is approved.

The planning committee will meet at noon on Tuesday to discuss the location of the overlay areas. Once the commissioners have finalized their decisions, Bessey will present their findings to the city council, which will have the final say.

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