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Steamboat discusses prohibited zones for short-term rentals

Residents in the Bear Creek area are concerned the short-term rentals are changing the neighborhood feel of their community. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Editor’s note: In the article titled “Steamboat discusses prohibited zones for short-term rentals” it should have said “The affordable housing thing, I think is a non-starter, I mean, these people, these million dollar homes are not going to be affordable housing for anybody if they aren’t in a nightly rental program. I think that it’s ridiculous to think that that’s even an issue.”

Steamboat Springs City Council held a nearly five-hour meeting Tuesday centered around where short-term rentals should be allowed and where, if anywhere, they should be prohibited.

Council President Jason Lacy was absent from the meeting, and council member Sonja Macys recused herself because of a conflict of interest.



Because the meeting was a work session, council did not take any formal votes but took a straw poll on prohibiting short-term rentals in certain neighborhoods and asked Planning Director Rebecca Bessey to research the issue further.

Council members only discussed a handful of neighborhoods and asked the city’s Planning Commission to weigh in on others. Because each neighborhood discussed already has at least one vacation home rental, council members would have to decide whether or not to grandfather those in or repeal their licenses.

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Each city zoning district currently falls into one of three categories of short-term rental rules:

• By-right, meaning property owners may operate a short-term rental without permission from the city.

• Permitted, meaning property owners may operate a short-term rental but must obtain a permit from the city.

• Prohibited, meaning property owners may not operate a short-term rental.

The city currently only requires permits for vacation-home rentals, a type of short-term rental defined as a single-family or duplex unit where the entire unit is being rented, though City Council voted to require permits for all short-term rentals and contracted with a service called Granicus to ensure rules are being followed on all short-term rentals.

Neighborhood rules

Council members went through each neighborhood on the mountain side of town and discussed whether or not they would like to allow short-term rentals in the area.

Walton Creek Road between Village and Columbine drives

• All five council members agreed to allow short-term rentals in this area.

Longthorne Road and part of Apres Ski Way

• All five council members agreed to allow short-term rentals in this area.

Ski Trail Lane and Poma Lane

• All five council members voted to permit short-term rentals in the area, which sits right under the Steamboat Resort gondola, as they felt the area’s proximity to the resort made sense to welcome renters.

Ore House Plaza and Pine Grove Road

• Council members Kathi Meyer, Lisel Petis, Michael Buccino and Robin Crossan stated they would like to allow short-term rentals, but council member Heather Sloop said she was against allowing them in this area, as she felt the area should be for local workers.

Burgess Creek Road and Storm Meadows Drive

• Because the area sits close to Thunderhead Lift, all five council members said they would allow nightly rentals in this area; however, the area is also home to locals who have lived there for decades, which is why all council members said they may change their minds when council takes a formal vote.

Central Park Drive, Steamboat Boulevard and the area surrounding UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center

• All five said they supported short-term rentals in this area.

Barn Village

• All five council members said they would oppose short-term rentals in this area.

Cornice Road and Clubhouse Drive

• All five council members favored short-term rentals in this area.

South of Walton Creek Road, which includes large swaths of condos traditionally rented to locals.

• Meyer was the only council member to support short-term rentals in this area. The other council members said the condos in the area should be reserved for local renters and those looking for an affordable option to buy their first property.

“‘People I know that live over there typically don’t have a lot of money,” Petis said of the area. “These aren’t the million-dollar homes that a lot of people came and talked about tonight, these are the cheaper places for people to rent and they’re starter condos.”

In addition to discussing rules for each neighborhood, council heard public comment from 45 community members, which included second-home owners who rent their homes as short-term rentals, residents who felt their neighborhoods were being destroyed by loud and inconsiderate nightly renters, property managers who said overlay zones would cost the city money if tourists went elsewhere, and locals who said short-term rentals have contributed to the city’s affordable housing crisis, making it difficult for businesses to find employees and pushing longtime locals out of their homes.

The right to rent

Dave Moloney bought his home on Village Drive 18 years ago and moved to town 30 years ago to live what he described as “the ski bum life.”

“I lived in every trailer park in town and worked my way up and built a business,” Moloney said. “Now I own a home on the mountain.”

As a real estate broker with Colorado Group Realty, Moloney believed the home would be a good investment. He lives in it now but hopes to one day rent it out to nightly visitors, as he said renting it to full-time residents would not cover the costs of the multimillion-dollar home.

“The affordable housing thing is a non-starter, and I think it’s ridiculous to even think that’s an issue,” Moloney said. “I’m kind of dismayed that even though I bought my house 18 years ago, I’m threatened with losing my rights.”

Ulrich Salzgeber, CEO of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, echoed Moloney’s sentiment that most vacation-home rentals would not be affordable to long-term renters. While he bought his own home on Amethyst Drive decades ago, Salzgeber said he likely would not be able to afford it now at its current price.

“I would love to rent it out to a local family,” Salzgeber said. “I don’t know if that’s possible, because I don’t know if they could afford it.”

Are short-term rentals driving the city’s affordable housing crisis?

While Realtors and second-home owners spoke about how they felt most short-term rentals could never be rented or bought by those in the community’s workforce, Scott Wappes said he has seen the opposite be true in his own life.

Wappes, who is in his mid-20s, bought his condo in Ore House Plaza in 2018. At the time, there were no short-term rentals in his building of 15 units. Three years later, there are now five in the building, four of which popped up during COVID-19.

“At the start of COVID, over 50% of my friend group moved out of town because they could no longer afford to live here,” Wappes said. “None of those people came back, not because they didn’t want to but because they couldn’t afford to.”

Watkins said many of the long-term rentals they used to live in were now being rented on Airbnb and VRBO.

“I’m fearful for the future of this community if we don’t act now, act fast and act effectively,” Wappes said. “We currently have a worker shortage in town and it’s not due to the unemployment benefits, I think it’s due to so many people my age moving out of town because they had to.”

Catherine Carson, a resident on Locus Court, encouraged council members to include neighborhoods with high concentrations of condos in overlay zones to preserve housing for teachers, police officers and service workers.

“Our young families and young workers need to be able to afford to get a condo and work their way up like many of us did,” Carson said.

Bad actors

Broken beer bottles left scattered across a pool deck, dogs running around off leash, a condom left in a hot tub and loud parties until 3 a.m. were among the dozens of complaints that five residents who live near short-term rentals shared with City Council.

“It’s sad, it’s terrible and it’s not even a neighborhood anymore,” said Michael Pinsker, a resident who lives on Apres Ski Way. “I don’t want to live in a neighborhood with strangers around me, and I want to know who’s living around my 9-year-old girl.”

Pinsker said he has lived in the neighborhood since the 1990s and remembers when Apres Ski Way was full of houses where workers at Steamboat Resort rented.

“It was a party neighborhood, but it was a locals party neighborhood,” Pinsker said. “Now, there are shuttles in my neighborhood.”

Linda Delaney, a resident on Moraine Circle, said her neighbors “suffer constantly” from nightly renters who play loud music, drive recklessly and don’t pick up after themselves.

“I appreciate the enforcement and the need to know where these are, but it seems like that’s not going to do anything to solve what actually goes on in these neighborhoods,” Delaney said.

While Delaney and Pinsker said their lives have become more difficult because of nightly renters, vacation home rental company owners Sarah Bradford and Robin Craigen both said the examples described were a small handful of what they called “bad actors,” not a representative of most nightly renters.

“We have very few problems with permitted vacation home rentals in our community,” said Craigen, co-founder and president of Moving Mountains. “It definitely feels, to me, that we have a problem with unregulated uses.”

Bradford, owner of Steamboat Lodging Co., agreed with Craigen and said the city’s new enforcement policy would solve many of the problems residents shared.

“We’re hearing tonight that there has not been enforcement of these few bad actors,” Bradford said.

Making fair decisions

Craigen argued that deciding where short-term rentals will be allowed and where they’ll be prohibited is not a fair system and would inevitably be a loss for many homeowners.

“When you draw lines between homes, you’re going to create winners and losers, and someone is going to feel that it’s not fair, and it’s probably not going to be fair,” Craigen said.

Though council did not make any formal decisions, council member Sloop encouraged property owners who may not be able to rent short-term to rent to long-term community members.

“There is no harm in long-term rental,” Sloop said. “It’s the same amount of revenue, so why not put it back in the long-term pool?”

Council member Buccino said he wanted to do more research before making a firm decision on overlay zones but hoped Granicus would solve many of the city’s problems in the meantime, as the company keeps track of all complaints made against certain properties.

“We need people who are managing these properties and people who own these properties to have accountability to what’s going on in that property,” Buccino said. “I think it’s going to be devastating when a management company has to rebook a year of rentals because that (vacation-home rental) is now gone, because you hit your three strikes of complaints.”

Council directed Bessey to begin drafting an ordinance to create two overlay zones — one to allow short-term rentals by-right and one to prohibit them completely, though council members expressed interest in allowing exceptions in prohibited zones for certain times of year, as members said they wanted to give local homeowners an option to rent their house out while on vacation.

Planning Commission will then vote on the ordinance Sept. 23, and council will take a first and second vote after that


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