Councilmember Michael Buccino weighs in on recall petitions, lawsuit against Steamboat Springs

Michael Buccino was the only Steamboat Springs City Council member who opposed recent policies designed to curtail short-term rentals, but he said on Friday, Aug. 5, that he doesn’t agree with all the tactics being used in an effort to reverse the decisions.

On July 19, City Council approved putting a ballot question for a 9% short-term rental tax to voters in November with a 6-1 vote and Buccino in dissent.

Buccino voted against the short-term rental tax ballot question, and he said he would have voted against a recently passed overlay zone putting restrictions on the number of short-term rentals in Steamboat, if other council members hadn’t recused him from the discussions.

With the tax question scheduled for the November ballot, a group known as the Steamboat Springs Community Preservation Alliance filed an application to petition for a referendum on the ordinance.

If the petition were approved and enough signatures gathered, it would put the ballot question to a special election vote, meaning the public would vote on whether to put the question on the ballot. If that passed, the public would vote again to pass or reject the tax.

However, because of the timing, that would in all likelihood put off the tax until at least November 2023.

Ultimately, the city clerk denied the preservation alliance’s petition request, saying it violated the Steamboat Springs Town Charter and would have confused voters. After the city sent notice of the clerk’s decision, the preservation alliance filed a lawsuit against the city.

Buccino said he has mixed feelings about some of the methods being employed by the preservation alliance, which filed petitions seeking recall votes for council members Joella West, Dakotah McGinlay and Heather Sloop.

“I’m not into the whole recall the way some people might think,” Buccino said. “I’m not about that. What I’m about is agreeing to disagree.”

Buccino added that “it’s just an unfortunate distraction, it really is.”

He said he doesn’t know how the recall effort will turn out, “but the citizens have a right to speak their mind.” Additionally, he said he has received support in the community for the positions he’s taken.

“I have received a lot of support from most of the business community for speaking on what they call, ‘common sense,’” Buccino said. “And they appreciate that I bring it up.”

Regarding the lawsuit being brought against the city, Buccino said he empathizes with the plaintiffs, but also has some criticisms.

“I mean, we approved an ordinance to go to vote, and you can let the voters decide,” Buccino said. “I don’t fully understand it. … If anything, it’s more of a delay of the process to keep it off the ballot. It seems like it’s just a strategy. I don’t know how valid it is, but (the city) denied it.”

Outside of his criticisms, many of Buccino’s positions are similar to the alliance’s. They both oppose the overlay zones but support the process of licensing short-term rentals and better enforcing the city’s rules on them.

Both Buccino and the preservation alliance would rather see a 0.25% increase in the sales tax with a much lower tax on short-term rentals that would go toward building affordable housing.

Buccino said he believes that at the heart of these issues, the short-term rental community feels ignored, and that is perhaps why they are resorting to alternative strategies.

He said that he would have liked to have been a part of the discussions on the short-term rental overlay zone, but he was recused because he operates an interior design company and owns real estate that, in the minds of the other City Council members, could benefit from more lenient short-term rental policies.

“If I was in that discussion, maybe they would have been a lot more amicable that their voice was being heard,” Buccino said. “But everyone that I talked to felt that they were silenced and that started off the whole thing on the wrong foot.”

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