Oak Creek votes to place cap on short-term rentals
OAK CREEK — As its neighbors to the north are six months into a debate over how, when and where short-term rentals should be allowed in Steamboat Springs, the town of Oak Creek is having its own conversation, hoping to get ahead of what town board members said is not currently a huge issue but could be in the future.
Town Board member Bernie Gagne first raised the issue with his fellow board members in 2019, as he noticed more short-term rentals popping up in the city and wanted to avoid what he called “a problem as big as Steamboat’s.”
Then, at their Aug. 26 meeting, board members voted unanimously to enact a series of rules about short-term rentals in town. An ordinance now breaks the town into three zones, and only allows five short-term rentals per zone, effectively limiting the number of short-term rentals to 15.
Those who want to operate a short-term rental must also obtain an annual license from the town, and rentals may only be operated on the property of a primary Oak Creek residence, which the town determines based upon a resident’s address on their driver’s license.
Property owners will also have to provide parking, fire safety and snow removal plan to be evaluated by the Oak Creek Fire Protection District.
Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel said the ordinance aims to protect Oak Creek’s small-town charm and family appeal while still honoring the choice for residents who wish to leave town and rent out their house or who have an unused garage or basement that they see fit for a nightly rental.
“With Steamboat starting the conversation, we wanted to make sure that we went into it educated and had these requirements in place before it became a problem,” Knoebel said. “We thought this was a good middle ground.”
Oak Creek is known primarily for its proximity to world-class hunting and short distance to the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, but Gagne said many of the town’s short-term rentals are also used for skiers or tourists visiting Steamboat who are looking for a more affordable option.
AirDNA, a website that tracks short-term rentals in various municipalities through searching Airbnb and VRBO, identified 10 listings in Oak Creek’s area code, with eight listing the entire house and only two listing solely a bedroom or part of the house.
The 959-person community of Oak Creek consists mainly of young families and workforce members who commute to Steamboat, Gagne said.
“We didn’t want all the housing to be taken advantage of by people wanting to use short-term rental’s for the ski mountain,” he said.
Those who currently operate a short-term rental are also grandfathered into new rules and will be the first to count as one of the five in each zone. The zones are defined as north of the center line of Main Street, south of the center line of Main Street and west of the center line of South Sharp Street, and south of the center line of Main Street and east of the center line of South Sharp Street.
Because the town is small and saddled between mountains, Knoebel and Gagne said they wanted to begin the short-term rental discussion now, because the city would not have many options to annex more land for housing.
“We wanted to preserve what we had, but we also did not want to just ban short-term rentals,” Gagne said.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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