Planning Commission sends short-term rental zone map to council

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission has recommended a short-term rental overlay zone map for city council’s approval. The map would divide the city into three color zones with different restrictions on short-term rentals operating in each one of the zones.
City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy image

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission passed two amendments on Thursday, April 28, recommending several short-term rental policies and a zoning map that, if approved, would restrict the number of short-term rentals within specific subzones.

Separate motions to amend the community development code and implement short-term rental overlay zones both passed 5-2 and will be sent to Steamboat Springs City Council.

City council will host a public discussion on the short-term rental overlay zones on Tuesday, May 10, followed by two scheduled readings May 17 and June 7.

The map is divided into three color-coded zones — red, yellow and green.

The red zone would prohibit all short-term rentals. The yellow would allow short-term rentals but with caps on licenses, and the green zones would have no caps but would still require licenses and ongoing compliance with the city’s rules.

The planning commission drew the boundaries based on different neighborhood characteristics. Properties near the mountain and near downtown were deemed green zones, while areas near schools or with an abundance of single-family homes were placed in restricted zones.

The area around Steamboat Resort has been designated as a green zone since the first draft of the map. The commercial district off Lincoln Avenue in Old Town was later added into the green zone.

The planning commission drew the green zones to include properties that were conceived as vacation properties at the time of being built. In these cases, the planning commission considered the owners of these properties likely made investments expecting short-term rental income.

Because the Old Town area is already commercially zoned, planning commissioners thought it was appropriate to designate the area as a green zone because short-term rentals fit the description of commercial use.

The limits on short-term rentals in each of the yellow zones are referred to as “caps” and were decided based on the number of short-term rentals already in those areas. The caps in each of the yellow zones were intended to either be less than or equal to the current number of short-term rentals in those subzones.

The specific boundaries for the zones have been a point of contention for months. During Thursday’s meeting, several members of the public spoke out against some of the boundary lines for the overlay map.

Shadow Run Condominiums off Walton Creek Road, for example, is between two yellow zones and across the street from a green zone, but the proposed map has Shadow Run in a red zone. Timber Run, however, which is just a few blocks away on Walton Creek Road, was designated into a green zone because it has a front desk staff to manage incoming renters.

Policymakers have not decided on a specific fee schedule for short-term rental licenses, but city council instructed the planning commission to set fees at a rate that will offset all costs associated with the licensing and enforcement processes including staffing, research and additional strains on the municipal court.

The city would also establish a 24-hour hotline to report short-term rentals for problems such as noise complaints and illegal parking. Fines, penalties and license revocation would all be potential punishments for breaching the terms of a short-term rental license.

Several members of the public spoke out during Thursday’s meeting, both in support of the overlay zone and opposed.

Those in support spoke about the housing shortage, an abundance of noise complaints on short-term renters and the character of the community being reshaped, among other arguments.

“We wish to remain in the red zone in any future drafts or changes,” said Karen Desjardin, a Steamboat Springs local.

“Our intent in all of this is to keep our neighborhood a community, a Steamboat community, and not a party zone of one long spring break all through the summer,” she continued.

Those who spoke out against the overlay map argued it would lessen sales tax revenue, could hurt property equity for homeowners in restricted zones. Additionally, there is no guarantee putting limits on short-term rental licenses would make long-term housing more available.

“I think it’s dangerous because we think that we’re creating affordable housing based on a loose theory,” said David Baldinger Jr. of the planning commission, who apposed the motions alongside Jeff Steck.

Baldinger Jr. disapproved, saying he didn’t want to set limits on short-term rentals, but supports licensing requirements and increased enforcement. Steck opposed the motion because he didn’t agree with permitting legal nonconforming use.

Additionally, there were discussions on how the new rules might interfere with rules set by homeowners associations. After much discussion, it was decided the planning commission would not recommend HOAs be exempt from the short-term rental overlay zone.

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