Routt County work sessions explore solution to neighbor conflicts over short-term rentals | SteamboatToday.com
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Routt County work sessions explore solution to neighbor conflicts over short-term rentals

If you go

What: Routt County commissioners host a public work sessions to explore ways to manage prohibited vacation home rentals in rural areas of the county.

When: 2:30 p.m., Sept. 8

Where: Commissioners’ Hearing Room in the historic Routt County Courthouse

— Routt County government is considering whether the best way to manage neighborhood conflicts resulting from the prohibited practice of renting homes to vacationers in rural areas here, is to legalize them in order to better regulate them.

The county commissioners will host a public work session on the subject Tuesday afternoon, and both Planning Director Chad Phillips and County Manager Tom Sullivan confirmed Friday that one of the possible outcomes being weighed is allowing the rentals to take place, but requiring property owners to obtain a permit, something that currently takes place in the city of Steamboat Springs.

If you go

What: Routt County commissioners host a public work sessions to explore ways to manage prohibited vacation home rentals in rural areas of the county.



When: 2:30 p.m., Sept. 8

Where: Commissioners’ Hearing Room in the historic Routt County Courthouse

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Whether you refer to them as short-term rentals, as the county does, nightly rentals or vacation rentals, the practice is proliferating in mountain resort towns and the counties that contain them. Web pages like VRBO and Airbnb facilitate transactions between landlords and renters.

“We’ve had complaints, but the bigger problem at the (planning) staff level is that the ban, right now, is really hard to enforce,” Phillips said. “If we have a permit process, we’re getting (homeowners) in the process, and it’s easier to enforce.”

In a letter to the county about the city’s experience with permitted “vacation home rentals,” City Planner Toby Stauffer said Steamboat Springs has been permitting vacation home rentals as a commercial use since 2005. The city code enforcement officer reviews Airbnb, VRBO and other websites quarterly to see if there are non-permitted properties. A few are found, and most property owners who are discovered to lack a permit, apply for one.

The most common complaints are related to noise and parking, she wrote, but in general, complaints are few, and permits must be renewed annually.

“The regulations have stood up to scrutiny and have been found to be reasonable and effective,” Stauffer wrote. “The city has a good track record of compliance from owners, and generally, there aren’t many issues with permits or permittees.”

Although it is not the county’s source of motivation, Sullivan also confirmed that inevitably, if short-term rentals in the county were legalized, the county would collect its 1 percent sales tax on the transactions.

Sullivan said a number of the formal complaints that come to the county over vacation rentals come from members of the boards of property owners associations who are frustrated that residents aren’t living up to the terms of their binding neighborhood covenants and seek the county’s help in enforcing those rules. However, the county has no ability to enforce covenants, he said.

If the county decided to follow through on any plans to legalize vacation rentals in order to exercise more control of the practice, both Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners would host additional public work sessions as well as formal hearings where the decision might be made, Sullivan said.

Assistant Planning Director Kristy Winser and staff planner Watkins Fulk-Gray researched the practice of short-term rentals in the county, and after consulting with the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, they found among 10 skis town municipalities surveyed that the loss of long-term rental housing attributable to vacation rentals was the number-one concern.

Winser reported that the Planning Department had received three complaints over short-term rentals in 2012, four in 2013, a single complaint in 2014 and none thus far in 2015.

“The Planning Department receives many more phone calls from people complaining about rental properties, but who aren’t willing to make a complaint,” Winser wrote.

She added that’s often because they don’t want to strain relationships with neighbors.

Phillips estimated that 75 percent of the formal complaints are resolved.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1


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