City to revisit vacation home rentals |

City to revisit vacation home rentals

Brandon Gee

The Steamboat Springs City Council reluctantly has re-opened an issue that has fueled clashes between homeowners and property managers for years.

The persistence of the latter group has paid off. After being told the city was too busy reviewing Steamboat 700 to consider changes to its ordinance regulating vacation home rentals, property managers attended the first council meeting after the annexation was approved to renew their pleas.

Although council members agreed to revisit a few provisions in the ordinance that may not be working well or as intended, City Council President Loui Antonucci stressed Monday that the city doesn’t intend to review the entire issue.

“I don’t want to go back to square one,” Antonucci said. Council members “were all in agreement that we needed to : confront it. : But I don’t want to open the whole can of worms.”

Vacation home rentals are residential homes that are rented to short-term vacationers and sometimes used for private functions. An ordinance passed in August 2007 regulating the tourism-related industry was the subject of quasi-judicial hearings and numerous lengthy meetings in 2006 and 2007. It replaced a 2001 ordinance with one more demanding of vacation rental owners and operators.

Unwilling to relive the entire debate, the city has made only small changes to submittal requirements for vacation rental site plans since the ordinance was passed. At last week’s council meeting, local property managers Suzie Spiro and Robin Craigen asked for a more comprehensive review and said the ordinance unduly burdens property owners and managers who follow the rules.

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“We are being harassed,” Spiro said, “and you just aren’t doing anything about places that are operating illegally. : People operating with total disregard are getting off for free.”

On Monday, city Director of Planning and Community Development Tom Leeson disagreed and said the ordinance “seems to be working fine.” He said the city receives a small number of complaints about vacation home rentals so enforcement efforts are geared toward identifying properties in rental listings and on Web sites that are not registered with the city.

Craigen said one of his Burgess Creek Road neighbors is “hell-bent on catching vacation home rentals out of compliance” and hiked onto national forest land to get a picture of cars in the driveway at one of his properties. Craigen said he embarrassingly had to contact a chef and former guests to get statements that led to a charge of parking violations being dropped.

The issues to be revisited by the city are the fees associated with the ordinance, its parking regulations and its requirement for an access agreement signed by all owners whose properties must be passed on private roads to access a vacation home.

Property managers have said the access agreement is excessive and sometimes impossible to obtain when there are a dozen or more people living across the world who own property on a private road.

Craigen asked that limits on the number of cars that can be parked at a vacation home rental be dropped and that the ordinance simply state that all cars must be parked on the rental property.

Spiro argued that there is no accounting in place to justify a $500 application fee and $50 annual renewal fee for vacation home rentals. The ordinance states the fees shall not “provide a sum greater than the cost incurred by the city to administer” the ordinance.

City Manager Jon Roberts said Monday that city staff intends to present council members by the end of the year with a report analyzing the issues and making recommendations.