Steamboat City Council enacts 90-day moratorium on vacation home rental applications in emergency meeting

Council will vote again next week to potentially extend for another 3 months

Steamboat Springs City Council members voted 5-1 in an emergency meeting Thursday to enact a six-month moratorium on vacation home rental permit applications.

The emergency meeting was called after a Tuesday discussion in which council members said they felt they needed to institute a pause on short-term rental applications so they could figure out solutions to the problems community members said they were experiencing.

Council member Sonja Macys, who rents out a room in her home, recused herself from the discussion. Council President Jason Lacy was the only council member to vote against the short-term rental moratorium, stating he believed it should have been more carefully tailored to exclude certain neighborhoods where local renters may not be able to afford housing prices.

The moratorium does not impact existing vacation home rentals, which have to be renewed each year, nor does it pertain to rentals that were in the application process before the meeting. The measure only applies to vacation rentals where an entire house is being rented for nightly use. It does not impact residents who rent out part of their home.

Several community members spoke to council during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Robin Craigen, CEO and president of local vacation rental company Moving Mountains, said vacation rentals make up only 5% of the short-term rentals in town; and therefore, they do not justify an emergency ordinance.

“This is not fair, and I don’t think that this is where the problem lies,” Craigen said, adding that his business relies on short-term rentals and had already taken a hit during the pandemic.

“I don’t feel guilty that we rent vacation homes,” he said.

Sarah Bradford, owner of Steamboat Lodging Co., said she believes the measure is an anti-tourism statement from council.

“This is the first step of saying Steamboat City Council is against tourism,” Bradford said. “Guests coming here is a good thing, and we can still have genuine Steamboat with our guests.”

Torey Wadnik, a resident who owns two small businesses in town, said she disagreed with the statements made by Craigen and Bradford. Instead, she felt the situation was an emergency.

“We aren’t able to hire anyone because people working in this town don’t have anywhere to live,” Wadnik said, adding her neighborhood near Bear Drive has seven short-term rentals on one street. “We deal with traffic, high rates of speed, garbage issues with bears, noise and major disruptions in our lives.”

Council members Kathi Meyer and Robin Crossan said they wanted to make clear the measure was not about limiting tourism.

“I would hope that this timeout is not read as anti-tourist in any way,” Meyer said. “This is really an opportunity to catch up on two years of ongoing talks that we had with the residential community and with the property management community.”

Crossan agreed and said vacation home rentals play a vital part of a tourism-based economy but should not come at the expense of locals housing.

“We support the guests that come to our community,” Crossan said. “But when you have a neighborhood that has 10 homes in it and seven of them are nightly rentals, that changes the character of the community, and it changes the character of the neighborhood.”

Craigen and Bradford argued the issue was not impacting affordable housing, as many vacation home rentals are too expensive for most local renters. Council member Michael Buccino agreed with their sentiment.

“I don’t think anyone that needs affordable housing is going to be renting the properties we’re talking about,” Buccino said. “They’re not going to be the kind of property that someone can afford to rent.”

Council member Lisel Petis disagreed and said the issue does impact affordable housing, as many of the homes in question are owned as a second property by people who live outside of the community.

“We are having second-home owners come up here and say, ‘The only way we can afford these houses is if they rent them out as nightly rentals,’” Petis said. “If they’re not able to do that and they’re not buying those homes, that does mean we can have those homes for locals and long-term renters.”

The moratorium is effective immediately and is in effect for 90 days. Council will vote again June 15 to extend the ordinance for its full six months.

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