Steamboat City Council extends short-term rental moratorium
Six of the seven Steamboat Springs City Council members voted Tuesday to extend the moratorium on vacation home rental applications to Dec. 13, which it initially approved in June.
“There is no silver bullet for affordable housing, but we’re trying to do all these small things to help,” said council member Lisel Petis, who pointed to vacation home rentals as a driving force behind Steamboat’s housing crisis.
Council member Sonja Macys recused herself from the vote Tuesday due to a conflict of interest.
Council is set to discuss the topic again next month.
The moratorium only impacts vacation home rentals, which account for only 211 of the city’s 3,854 short-term rentals, according to data sent to Steamboat Pilot & Today by Sarah Bradford, owner of Steamboat Lodging Co. Bradford said the data was collected by KeyData, a data source used by the Steamboat Chamber.
A map Bradford designed also broke down the percentage of vacation home rental permits dispersed by neighborhood, with 35.55% coming from the area south of Steamboat Resort, defined as south of Walton Creek Road and east of Whistler Road; 22.75% north of the resort, defined as Steamboat Boulevard, Burgess Creek Road and Clubhouse Drive; 17% on Hilltop Drive, Fish Creek Falls Drive, Blue Sage Drive and Anglers Drive; 15.64% in Old Town; 3.32% from west of Whistler Road, including U.S. Highway 40; 1.9% in the Fairview neighborhood; 1.42% in the Sunlight neighborhood; 1.42% in the Brooklyn neighborhood; and 0.47% in the Riverside and West End Village neighborhoods.
“The data, to me, says that we have a problem with unregulated uses in certain neighborhoods,” Robin Craigen, CEO of Moving Mountains, said during the public comment period of council’s meeting. “Extending the moratorium isn’t fixing the problem that you’re trying to fix.”
While Petis pointed to unregulated short-term rentals as an affordable housing issue as well as a neighborhood character issue, Council President Jason Lacy said the primary issue to him was a repeated complaint from residents that short-term rentals are inviting trash, loud parties and too many cars into traditionally residential neighborhoods and, thereby upsetting, full-time residents.
“I would want to look at a map and somehow look at what are the rates of local ownership and values of the homes,” Lacy said.
Lacy acknowledged the task may be difficult but said he supported regulating short-term rentals in more residential neighborhoods and letting them continue to exist unregulated in the areas closest to the resort, where property is more expensive and tourists are more inclined to stay.
The data Bradford provided showed most of the homes being offered as vacation rentals were worth several million dollars, with only 14 of the 211 homes being worth under $1 million, according to estimates from real estate website Zillow.
“We might be able to create overlay zones to say these are the areas that might make sense to limit or eliminate short-term rentals, and these are the areas that don’t,” Lacy said.
Because vacation home rentals are currently the only short-term rental type that require a permit, data is difficult to collect on others, but KeyData estimates show there are about 3,854 short-term rentals within the city.
Four residents in Steamboat gave public comment during the meeting, with three calling short-term rentals a contributor to the city’s lack of affordable housing.
“It is willfully ignorant to say that our long-term rental situation is not impacted by people buying these homes to turn them into investment properties that they can only afford by renting them short-term,” resident Torey Wodnick said.
Travis Schwartz, a Texas resident who owns a vacation home rental on Ski Trail Lane, said limiting such rentals will have a negative impact on tourism, which the city’s economy relies on.
“If you eliminate short-term rentals in any form, you’re going to get what these other cities have seen, which is areas that go dark,” Schwartz said.
To counteract Schwartz’ point, Wodnick said residents would prefer “dark homes” over short-term rentals.
“I would prefer full-time neighbors and have more kids playing in the street, but I will take a dark home over a party home,” Wodnick said.
In addition to extending the moratorium and asking city Planning Director Rebecca Bessey to create an overlay zone map proposing where short-term rentals make the most sense to reside, council members also asked that Bessey research implementing an application fee to deincentivize short-term rentals, as well as explore a permitting process for all short-term rentals, not just vacation homes.
“The whole point of this is to maintain neighborhood integrity and keep our neighborhoods as neighborhoods so we don’t lose Steamboat,” council member Robin Crossan said. “That is the first step that’s fair.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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