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City to review nightly rentals

Four options on the table

— Steamboat Springs City Council will hold a special meeting Monday devoted to the topic of short-term rentals of single-family homes, and how they will be regulated in the city’s new development code. The entire code is tentatively scheduled for adoption in mid-July.

Renting single-family homes to vacationers has been a commonplace practice in Steamboat for decades.

In some cases, private individuals rent their homes on their own. Property management companies specializing in the rental of vacation homes have also grown up around the practice.



The existing development code doesn’t provide for regulation of the practice.

However, the short-term rental of single-family homes has been at the center of a controversy here for more than four years, as the city has struggled to write and adopt a new code.

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A group of property managers have formed a new organization they call the “Community Preservation Alliance Concerned Citizens for Property Rights and Responsible Property Management,” to make their case with the city.

“We believe the vacation home rentals are unjustly being targeted and discriminated against,” Evelyn Berge said. “Considering the sales base, taxes collected and the small number of homes involved, the city should stop spending their valuable time refereeing neighborhood squabbles.” Berge is the principal of Special Places of Steamboat Inc., a property management company, and a member of the Community Preservation Alliance.

Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg said Thursday she will present four options to City Council, including one generated by a vote taken by Planning Commission in March 1999. The commissioners voted to allow vacation home rentals throughout the city with the caveat that they be strictly regulated so as to ensure they create no more impact on their neighbors than a home occupied by permanent residents.

Berge said she believes the management companies that rent single-family homes could happily live with Planning Commission’s recommendation.

Schulenberg said the other options include: Prohibition of short-term single family rentals (29 days or less), deregulation of short-term single family rentals, and regulating and monitoring of short-term rental of single-family residential dwellings.

“Each of these alternatives includes a description, advantages and disadvantages and operation issues involved in administering the policy,” Schulenberg said. “We will also present some additional options, such as an overlay zone, semiannual lottery system, and a limitation on how many days within the year that a unit can be rented.”

Although staff will not make a formal recommendation, Schulenberg said she will point out that the fourth option of compliance criteria and monitoring could allow reasonable use of property, while protecting the neighborhood from potential impacts.

Other possibilities include making vacation rentals a use by right in certain zones and a conditional use in other zones in case City Council would like to have a hybrid of one of the aforementioned alternatives, Schulenberg said.

“Finally, we will also be presenting the results of a sample survey of public safety calls to short-term single family rentals over a 10 month period,” she added.

A community-wide survey conducted in August 1999, and released in March 2000 confirmed that the community is evenly split on the issue of vacation rentals.

On one side are homeowners who argue that commercial activity in a family neighborhood violates the single-family zoning they thought they were purchasing into. They further contend that the increasing number of short-term rental homes will gradually undermine the neighborhoods’ communities.

On the other side are homeowners and managers of property management companies who say that renting vacation homes is the means for many people to own their dream property in Steamboat Springs. They contend there is no documented evidence that short-term rentals have a negative impact on neighbors. Long-term rentals, which often attract seasonal resort workers, are much more likely to lead to neighborhood disruptions they say.

The city should not attempt to regulate short-term rentals because neighborhoods should be able to do that through subdivision covenants.

In an effort to gauge the impact short-term rentals have on their neighbors, the city planning staff has undertaken a study to determine what portion of police calls and noise complaints in the city can be attributed to them.

Berge says her group has already looked at nine months of police reports. She says they reflect a total of 24 calls in a nine-month period attributable to vacation home rentals. Of that total, almost all were for relatively insignificant matters like false fire alarms and carbon monoxide calls, Berge said. Only four stemmed from legitimate complains.

“These four complaints are insignificant when you consider there were 95,290 bed nights into vacation-home rental from April 2000 to 2001, Berge said.

Barbara Hughes, a resident of the Hunter’s Ridge neighborhood, south of the ski area, says police calls aren’t the main reason she’s uncomfortable with having five vacation homes on her block. Her unhappiness centers on the fact that the anonymous strangers who rotate through those houses never became neighbors she can socialize with, or the parents of children who play with the neighbors’ children all of the little things that make a neighborhood a neighborhood.

At one time, the city was contemplating incorporating a zone overlay map into the new code that would permit vacation home rentals near the base of the ski area, but forbid them in Old Town Steamboat.

Berge says data gathered about the location of vacation rental homes in Steamboat suggests that would be pointless.

Of 6,272 total dwelling units in Steamboat (not including Heritage Park, Steamboat II, and Tree Haus) there are 2,089 homes, duplexes and tri-plexes, Berge said. Of that number, 90 are vacation rentals. Of the 90, just five are in Old Town.

The issue of vacation home rentals represents less than 2 percent of total homes in Steamboat, Berge concluded.


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