City planning commission weighs where short-term rentals would be allowed by right, and where to restrict them |

City planning commission weighs where short-term rentals would be allowed by right, and where to restrict them

Zone six south of Walton Creek Road has about 254 short-term rentals in it, but planning commissioners largely agreed it should be an area where they are restricted. Some commissioners noted some of these units, like those seen here in Sunray Meadows off Columbine Drive are attainable workforce housing.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today.

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission advanced its discussion about how short-term rentals should be regulated on Monday, Feb. 28, identifying several key areas where the majority of commissioners feel they should be unrestricted.

The planning commission has been tasked with laying out overlay zones where short-term rentals would be allowed by right, where they would be restricted and where they wouldn’t be allowed at all.

In zones where short-term rentals would be restricted, rules could take form in either a cap or in exceptions to what could be used as a short-term rental. When it comes to caps, the planning commission was divided on what that ultimately looks like, with some commissioners feeling there should be a citywide cap, and others believing the by-right zones would be excluded from that restriction.

City Council has indicated that all short-term rentals will need a license, whether in a by-right zone or not. This would include hosted rentals, which is where a property rents out a single room, though those wouldn’t be included in any potential caps.

A slide from Planning and Community Development Director Rebecca Bessey lays out the seven zones planning commissioners discussed Monday.
Steamboat Springs Planning Commission/Screenshot

Entering the discussion on Monday, Steamboat Planning and Community Development Director Rebecca Bessey shared a map of the city with some areas colored dark green, some light green and others yellow or red.

The dark green areas are the resort residential and gondola zoning districts, where it is already agreed short-term rentals would be allowed by right. Based on data from Granicus, about 2,000 short-term rentals are within this zone, Bessey said.

Commissioners discussed whether short-term rentals should be allowed by right in the light green-colored zones — six areas adjacent to the dark green and another in downtown Steamboat that Bessey said contained about 670 short-term rentals total.

Commissioner Jessica Hearns said she has always envisioned a citywide cap of some sort and she felt that all short-term rentals, even if in a by-right zone, would be included.

“When something is dark green, it starts to reduce that number,” Hearns said, referring to whatever the citywide cap would be. “There’s unintended consequences to making something green before talking about overall caps.”

But Commissioner David Baldinger Jr. said he felt the light green areas are historically key for lodging and are where they should want resort-oriented lodging to be from a planning standpoint because it has good access to transit.

Bessey said that having a citywide cap could effectively put caps in by-right zones if the cap was ever reached.

But Hearns said that is what she feels people want, and that many in the public believe that the number of short-term rentals locally has gotten out of hand.

“The status quo is too much and it’s not what the residents want,” Hearns said. “If we allow portions of the city to be unchecked it allows us to go over the status quo.”

But Baldinger contended that wasn’t the directive given to the commission.

“We are not tasked with reducing the status quo,” Baldinger said.

Commissioners didn’t reach a consensus on caps, instead opting to move on to consider light green zones. A majority of commissioners said five of them should allow short-term rentals by right.

The first of these five was a section in downtown Steamboat, the only one not already adjacent to current by-right zones. Bessey said the area, which includes Lincoln Avenue as well as Yampa and Oak streets, has 78 short-term rentals.

The commission largely agreed on four other zones that are all near the resort’s slopes or that can only be accessed by going through by-right zones.

Zone two, which includes properties along Pine Grove and Central Park Drive, was one commissioners didn’t completely agree on.

“This is not a resort area,” said Commissioner Jeff Steck. “There’s some working-class people who live down there, and in the future it could be even more so.”

Commissioner Brian Adams suggested parts of the area could be classified as allowed with restrictions, and those restrictions could be tailored to allow a higher density of short-term rentals.

Zone six, which is entirely south of Walton Creek Road includes about 254 short-term rentals, but several of the commission members believed it also includes a lot of attainable housing options for the local workforce, with large complexes like Shadow Run being mentioned specifically.

Baldinger, who said he favored making each of zones dark green but recognized toe complexity of zone six, suggested reaching out to people that live in the area to see what they would prefer, though a June timeline to deliver policy makes that difficult.

“This community wants regulations in the realm of vacation home rentals, short-term rentals, and I think it’s highly appropriate in residential neighborhoods,” Baldinger said. “Drawing the lines is the hard part.”

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