Steamboat Council tables discussion on short-term rental license exemptions
Steamboat Springs City Council is reviewing an ordinance that would allow certain “quasi-hotel” properties to be excepted from the short-term rental licensing process.
The spirit of the ordinance is to allow properties that function similar to a hotel, such as the units at the Steamboat Grand, to be licensed in one fell swoop — saving the city time and resources while saving the property owners money on license fees.
But after a plea from Mark Walker, who owns Resort Group, during council’s meeting on Dec. 13 before the second and final vote on the policy, City Council chose to postpone voting on the ordinance until their next meeting on Jan. 3, saying they wanted more time to consider the feedback brought to their attention by Walker.
Walker asked for two changes to the ordinance. First, he wanted the city to change the “24-hour staffed desk” requirement to just say “staffed desk,” saying the properties he manages have a staffed desk for most of the day but directs late night phone calls to a third-party.
He argues that his staff is still able to respond to complaints from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m within 30 minutes, which is one of the terms for operating a short-term rental once licenses are issued.
He also asked the council to change the “24-hour security” requirement to just “24-hour staff,” saying it’s unclear how to differentiate between security staff and regular staff, and Walker feels confident his staff can address complaints in an equal capacity to security personnel.
The city’s Planning Director Rebecca Bessey said exemptions to the licensing process would be handled case by case by either the city manager or someone the city manager delegates authority to. She explained that the ordinance calls for the city manager to interpret whether a property manager’s staff functions similarly enough to security personnel to qualify for the exception.
But the “24-hour staffed desk,” was written to allow less room for interpretation.
“The way this was drafted, the intention was to not leave any ambiguity in terms of what constitutes a staffed desk,” Bessey told the council. “On-site, 24-hour staffed desk — pretty clear — and that was intentional.”
Bessey said the language was based on policies observed in other communities with similar short-term rental licensing requirements, particularly Breckenridge. She said the intent of amending the short-term rental licensing code was to allow exemptions for specific properties that essentially function as a hotel, and said it was intentional to not include properties with staffed desks only during certain hours.
“The folks that are staying there, they know if there’s an issue, they know where to go to take care of it — somebody on-site,” Bessey said.
The council members voted in a 4-3 split. Michael Buccino, Robin Crossan, Ed Briones and Joella West supported tabling the discussion, though Buccino was the only one who explicitly said he wanted to change the ordinance like Walker suggested.
“Do we know how many actual hotels are 24-hour staffed?” asked Buccino, who argued that few local hotels keep their front desks staffed all year including the offseason. He said that unless the terms for license exemptions are revised, the Steamboat Grand might be the only property that would qualify.
“I think that by giving this a little bit more latitude, by changing a couple of words in this, it still has the intent of the expected licensing but fits into the way our community runs their business,” Buccino said.
But councilmembers Gail Garey, Dakotah McGinlay and Heather Sloop were ready to vote on the ordinance that day.
“I think it’s great as it is because it was crafted with explicit purpose,” McGinlay said, who explained that she didn’t think the properties managed by The Resort Group are similar enough to a hotel to be exempt from the city’s license requirement.
“With all due respect to Resort Group, these are private homes,” McGinlay said. “These are townhomes. These could be your neighbors.”
City Council will discuss and potentially vote on the ordinance on Jan. 3, after a public comment period. The ordinance would also create licenses for “temporary short-term rentals,” or primary residences that are rented out up to twice a year or a maximum of 30 days, whichever is more restrictive.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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