Routt County Commissioners hand off puzzle of nightly rentals to planning board
Unable to agree on whether the practice of renting private homes on a short-term basis to vacationers is consistent with the 2003 update of the Routt County Master plan, or even if the practice constitutes a commercial activity, the Routt County commissioners on Tuesday turned to their Planning Commission for advice.
“I think our master plan is a prohibition to everything, including economic prosperity,” Commissioner Doug Monger said. “It seems to me we have a puzzle here. I’m going to be in favor of sending this back (to Planning Commission).”
Monger was referring to the fact that the master plan precludes commercial activity outside of a few small, existing districts such as those in Milner and Clark. Tuesday’s hearing marked the second time in six weeks commissioners have discussed the prospect of authorizing nightly rentals.
Commissioners Tim Corrigan and Cari Hermacinski agreed to sending a specific lists of questions for planning commissioners to analyze, including the big picture dilemma of deciding whether the county’s master plan is out-of-date and in need of a thorough overhaul. But at the end of the 90 minute session, it was clear Corrigan and Hermacinski see the issue differently.
Corrigan said that, even though his own household is somewhat intrigued with the possibility of renting their house in South Routt and taking off on an extended vacation themselves, he thinks doing so would probably be in conflict with the master plan. And in any case, he can’t imagine allowing homeowners to rent their rural homes for anything more than 30 to 60 days in a given year.
Hermacinski thinks nightly rentals in private homes are residential activities, not commercial, and hence, are compatible with the master plan. She would not limit how many nights per year they could be rented. And even though it would be a major undertaking, she’s open to a major revision of the master plan.
“I think the master plan is outdated and prohibits many economic activities in the county … If the master plan is going to tie my hands for the next two or three years I’m going to sit here, then I’m all in favor of taking on (a master plan revision).”
County Planning Director Chad Phillips told commissioners in September he estimates there are 45 to 60 vacation rental homes in the county, with concentrations either close to the city or near either Steamboat Lake or Stagecoach state parks. Nightly rentals of private homes and condominiums are commonplace in the city, where they have been tightly regulated for a decade and complaints average close to 15 per year.
Jay Fetcher told commissioners his adult daughter and son-in-law are interested in hosting guests in an unused home on the family ranch on the Elk River near Clark, where they could pass on wisdom such as how to collect eggs from laying hens and “which end of a cow gets up first.”
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