Our view: Welcome to the ‘Sharing Economy’ | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Welcome to the ‘Sharing Economy’

At issue

Would vacation home rentals in the county create less disturbance if they were regulated by the county?

Our view

The best way to ease tensions over vacation rentals in the county is to legalize them as a means to regulating them

As residents of Steamboat Springs, we are sensitive to the disturbance that rural Routt County residents have experienced from the use of nearby residences as vacation homes. After all, they likely chose their properties for the relative peace and quiet they offer.

However, we think the Routt County Commissioners and planning staff are moving cautiously down the correct path as they investigate the possibility of legalizing short-term rentals outside commercial areas in the county in order to better regulate them.

At first glance, it might seem counterintuitive, but before county officials can really get a handle on the vacation rentals already taking place, they need the landlords to come to the courthouse to seek licenses and be advised of a new set of regulations governing that practice.

The county’s Assistant Planning director, Kristy Winser, reminded county commissioners in a Sept. 2 memo: “Short-term home rentals, defined as rental periods of less than one month, are illegal everywhere in unincorporated Routt County, except in places zoned commercial or that have a conditional or special use permit for bed and breakfasts or guest ranches.”

She added, “The nuisance of a neighbor renting their home on a short-term basis is an increasing problem in the county and is more common than suggested by the number of complaints received.”

The county currently lacks the employees needed to monitor and enforce far-flung rental homes here, and clearly, changes need to be made. Experience strongly suggests the best way to mitigate disturbances created by vacation renters in private homes is to legalize the practice.

In the early 1970s, when the bed base at the Steamboat Ski Area was not nearly so developed, it was commonplace for local homeowners to spruce up their digs and spend the Christmas week with relatives while strangers slept in their beds and on their couches.

Nightly rentals became contentious in the early 1990s, when residences in traditional residential neighborhoods were converted into vacation homes with the capacity to host family reunions.

After many spirited public hearings, the city of Steamboat Springs put into place a formal permitting process for “vacation home rentals.”

City Planner Toby Stauffer described the current state of vacation home rentals to county officials this way in a written memo: “The regulations have stood up to scrutiny and have been found to be reasonable and effective. Steamboat has had a few minor noise and parking issues, only one has ended in a citation. The city has a good track record of compliance from owners, and generally, there aren’t many issues with permits or permittees.”

The practice of renting vacation homes has changed significantly in the past decade with the rise of the “sharing economy.” Online vacation booking sites, such as VRBO and Airbnb, have linked landlords directly with renters.

The economy realized by renters through these services and the appeal of staying in unique homes and apartments means vacation home rentals aren’t going away.

It’s time for Routt County to legalize and regulate them.

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