Short-term rental regulations in Steamboat officially approved

The final draft of the short-term rental overlay zone map. Steamboat Springs City Council approved this overlay map on Tuesday, June 7, 2022.
City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy image

With a unanimous 6-0 vote on Tuesday, June 7, the Steamboat Springs City Council approved ordinances that will implement regulations on short-term rentals. Licensing requirements and the overlay zone map will be implemented to the city’s development code within the coming week.

“We did what the community asked us to do,” said City Council President Robin Crossan.

The ordinances go into effect five days after the city announces the decision. Following that, short-term rental owners have a six-month grace period to apply for one of the new licenses or apply for legal nonconforming status.

City Council will have the ability to amend these ordinances on an ongoing basis, and they’ve expressed a willingness to revisit the polices when issues from the community are brought forth.

“If there are areas that need to be revisited, we should have that conversation and revisit them,” said council member Gail Garey. “But I’m not saying that should be done tomorrow.”

People who wish to rent out residential property for less than 30 days at a time will now have to procure a short-term rental license every 12 months. The licenses will require property owners to abide but regulations such as providing adequate parking and responding to noise complaints promptly.

The overlay zone map will place limits on the number of short-term rental licenses issued within zones marked yellow on the map. The red zones prohibit the issuance of short-term rental licenses. Green zones have no restrictions, aside from procuring the appropriate license, and include the commercially zoned downtown area off Lincoln Avenue, and the properties closest to the base of Steamboat Resort.

Those who have been lawfully operating short-term rentals within the previous 12 months can apply for legal nonconforming status, and if approved, would need only to demonstrate they have rented out their property within the ensuing 12 months to qualify for another short-term rental license.

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City Council and Routt County Planning Commission’s decision to allow nonconforming use is part of a strategy to gradually phase out short-term rentals within certain residential neighborhoods, as they don’t expect an enormous, immediate drop in short-term rentals operating in the city.

“This is truly a long-term plan anchored by the overlays,” said council member Joella West.

While most people in the community agree it’s a good idea to license short-term rentals and enforce rules with penalties, the overlay zone map and its limits on the number of short-term rentals has been a contentious subject in the public forum.

“With one smack of the gavel, you will have destroyed our financial portfolio,” said Ulrich Salzgeber, who is the managing broker at the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors. “Apparently Steamboat is ready for the Salzgebers to leave.”

In public comment on Tuesday, Peter Mamich compared the overlay map to the practice of red-lining, when predominantly African-American neighborhoods were colored red on maps and excluded from home loans that were backed by government insurance programs.

“I would expect litigation if this goes forward,” said Mamich.

Several other members of the public implied a desire to sue the city because of the overlay map.

Similar restrictions have been passed in many other Colorado towns such as Breckenridge and Telluride, as the housing crisis has been especially felt in ski resort towns.

“The ordinances that were adopted (Tuesday) conform to the existing guidance that we have from Colorado and federal courts,” said City Attorney Dan Foote.

“In order for a lawsuit to be successful, the plaintiff would, in my opinion, have to convince an appellate court to change the existing law as to the city’s zoning powers and/or the constitutional limits on those powers,” Foote said.

This past November, four of the seven sitting City Council members, Edwards Briones, Garey, Dakotah McGinlay and West were elected on platforms that promised to restrict the number of short-term rentals within city limits, as housing and rent prices in Steamboat Springs have soared in recent years and inventory is low.

“You guys have graduated to full council status now,” said Council Member Heather Sloop, who has served on the council since 2015.

“It did feel very much like a key point in our community and to be a part of that is a big honor,” said council member McGinlay. “We want to keep Steamboat growing together.”

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