County commissioners back Steamboat council’s STR tax effort |

County commissioners back Steamboat council’s STR tax effort

Routt County commissioners said Monday, May 16, that they support an effort by the Steamboat Springs City Council to put a tax on short-term rentals.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot

At a joint meeting of the groups on Monday, May 16, all three Routt County commissioners said they back efforts being taken by the Steamboat Springs City Council to impose a new tax on short-term rentals.

Only one of the commissioners, Beth Melton, lives in Steamboat and will be able to vote on the measure when it is expected to come before voters this fall, but commissioners said what the city does certainly impacts the whole county.

“Most people might question whether or not this is the business of the county to be weighing in,” said Commissioner Tim Corrigan. “But we all know what happens in Steamboat affects the county and what happens in the county affects Steamboat. This is one community.”

Last week, council signaled it favored asking voters to put a new tax of between 7% and 10% on short-term rentals, and that the revenue would be used to build infrastructure needed at Brown Ranch, though the final ballot language won’t mention the Yampa Valley Housing Authority project directly.

Council is planning to have a first reading on the ordinance that would place a question about the tax on the ballot on June 20, in a process that council members have said would need to move quickly.

“On behalf of all three of us, we are very supportive of your efforts,” Melton said. “I would encourage you to be bold.”

Commissioners have expressed support for the tax during Monday work sessions as council has been working on the measure, but they hadn’t made this direct of an endorsement of the tax. The county does not allow short-term rentals in the unincorporated county without a special-use or bed and breakfast permit.

Council President Robin Crossan emphasized there are still aspects of the tax to be worked out, such as the exact percentage and whether it will sunset after 20 years or be in perpetuity. She said council has been getting a lot of feedback from people on all sides of the issue.

“We want higher, we want lower, we will vote for anything, we won’t vote for any of it,” Crossan said in a brief summary of comments she’s read.

Corrigan said his fear is that if the local housing crisis isn’t addressed, there would be more pressure on commissioners to ease zoning regulations in unincorporated parts of the county.

Commissioners have credited the county’s zoning policies with protecting open space, particularly the view of the South Valley Floor from Rabbit Ears Pass. The policies don’t allow subdivisions with lots smaller than 40 acres unless in a designated growth area like Stagecoach or West Steamboat.

“If we don’t get our arms around this issue, we will come under increasing pressure in the future to relax zoning regulations and start allowing subdivisions,” Corrigan said. “We’ll end up looking like Montrose County or Delta County where you drive up and down the road and don’t see anything but houses.”

He encouraged council to think bigger and push the tax to 15%, because they would only get “one bite at the apple.”

Council member Michael Buccino said he has heard from a wide variety of people, including some who own short-term rentals and are not opposed to the tax, even if it were to exceed 10%.

“We would encourage you to not let it get whittled down,” Melton said. “We’ve identified significant infrastructure needs. … The more that you allow this to potentially be whittled down, the less likely it is this funding can support what’s needed.”

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