Steamboat begins work with short-term rental enforcement company
Steamboat Springs Planning Department staff members have begun the first steps of working with Granicus, the company the city has hired to enforce and monitor complaints specifically made against short-term rental units in town. Such complaints are usually related to noise, attracting bears or leaving trash outside.
Steamboat Springs City Council set aside money for the service in its 2021 budget, and Planning Director Rebecca Bessey said the service will be fully operating by the end of the year.
For now, Granicus is using Airbnb and Vrbo listings to build a database to track every short-term rental in the city. After the database is built, Granicus will work with Planning Department staff to create a template for violation letters and notices of citation. In the final phase, Granicus will implement a 24/7 hotline system, which will allow residents to report a complaint, and Granicus will notify the local owner or property manager.
If a property owner receives a citation alleging they violated a city code, the owner will be required to appear in municipal court. From there, the owner could face a fine or other form of penalty, but City Attorney Dan Foote emphasized that an owner has an option to contest their alleged violation.
“Just the fact that we’ve written a ticket does not establish a violation,“ Foote said.
Foote said the burden of proof to issue a citation will vary depending on each situation.
Council member Heather Sloop said the short-term rental issue, which council has been attempting to tackle with different policy options for months, has been difficult to discuss because City Council does not have data to track how many noise and trash complaints are specifically related to short-term rentals. She said council members have received dozens of emails and verbal complaints from community members claiming short-term rentals are causing a problem.
“We all know of people that are saying there is a problem, but it’s not being documented,” Sloop said. “We want legitimate complaints, not ‘I don’t like my neighbor, so I’m going to call the cops on them.’”
While Granicus will provide enforcement, City Council still has to adopt an ordinance requiring licenses for all short-term rentals, as they are currently only required for vacation home rentals, a small subset of short-term rentals defined as a single-family dwelling or duplex unit used for lodging where the owner or other permanent resident does not reside in the unit.
Council members have expressed they would like to require permits for all short-term rentals, but they have not passed an ordinance yet and do not currently have it on their calendar, though Bessey said she hopes to have the ordinance in place by the end of the year.
Before the ordinance is adopted, Bessey said council members need to decide on how long of a grace period they would like to provide for short-term rental owners to obtain a license before receiving a citation that they are operating illegally.
“We certainly cannot license thousands of these overnight,” Bessey said. “We’re going to have to have some reasonable time period to get the word out, allow people to submit those applications, then allow staff to process them.”
Though Granicus will soon take over some of the enforcement, most complaints relating to short-term rentals are currently called into the Steamboat Springs Police Department, though Interim Chief Jerry Stabile said officers do not know whether or not a call is specifically related to a short-term rental when they arrive.
“It doesn’t get dispatched as a short-term rental noise complaint,” Stabile said. “It’s just a noise complaint.”
Moving forward, Stabile said he hopes the department can work with Granicus and the Planning Department to ensure officers are notified when a call is specifically related to a short-term rental, which is similar to officers being notified when a name they run in their system is registered with a conceal carry permit.
“You have to remember that if it’s the homeowner that’s there generating the noise complaint, it’s not necessarily a violation of the short-term rental license or vacation home rental permit,“ Bessey added. ”There’s some additional information we’re going to have to parse out to determine whether that’s a complaint and a violation of the license or the permit.“
Sarah Bradford, owner of Steamboat Lodging Co., said she hopes Granicus will help alleviate the negative feelings some community members have about short-term rentals.
“This 24/7 hotline is going to be huge, because now we can give that number out to all the neighbors, and we can really see where people are calling in and where the issues are,” Bradford said. “It’s going to tighten up the loose regulations there have been.”
But Bill Pass, a resident on Bear Creek Drive, told planning commissioners Thursday during the public comment portion of their meeting that he was skeptical of how well enforcement would work for property owners who have repeatedly broken rules.
“I don’t see that this whole enforcement thing is going to work because it hasn’t worked to date,” Pass said. “I don’t see how anyone is going to have the gumption to actually revoke these licenses from people or give them a big enough fine to stop them from doing what they’re doing.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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