Steamboat opts to remove certain areas from vacation home rental moratorium

Short Term Rentals (darker)
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot

Steamboat Springs City Council members directed Planning Director Rebecca Bessey during their Tuesday night meeting to draft an ordinance extending the moratorium on vacation home rental applications to sometime in January while letting it expire Oct. 31 for certain neighborhoods near Steamboat Resort.

The discussion came in advance of Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting, in which commissioners will be holding a nonvote discussion identifying potential overlay zones where short-term rentals could be prohibited.

When council members first broached the idea of overlay zones in August, all agreed short-term rentals would likely continue to be allowed on streets closest to the resort, such as Apres Ski Way, Storm Meadows Drive and Burgess Creek Road.

“To me, it’s just common sense to lift the moratorium right now in the areas that are at the base of the mountain,” council member Michael Buccino said. “There are inherently homes that are at the base of the resort that have been vacation home rentals for years and decades.”

Robin Craigen, Sarah Bradford and Suzie Spiro, owners of Steamboat Lodging Co., Moving Mountains and Steamboat Lodging Properties, respectively, presented council with a map of where they believe the moratorium should be lifted as soon as possible and where it makes sense to keep it in place. The map can be viewed digitally here. Some streets on the map have short-term rental restrictions based on their home owner associations, such as The Sanctuary area.

• The city of Steamboat Springs defines a vacation home rental as a single-family dwelling or duplex unit used as a lodging establishment where the owner or other permanent resident does not reside in the unit.

• There are currently 213 active, operating VHR permits in the city.

Bradford and Steamboat Lodging Co. staff compiled the data used on the map from the Routt County Assessor’s Office by looking at streets in the mountain area with less than 25% local density, meaning residents of the houses listed the addresses as their primary residences and mailing addresses for tax purposes.

Bradford said Bear Creek Drive and Hunters Drive, which are included in the current carve-out map, both have a higher percentage of locals than 25%, so council members agreed to revisit those streets before voting.

Bessey and planning staff will also verify Bradford’s data with the county before council votes on the issue in October.

The areas outlined in green are the areas Steamboat Springs City Council will be voting to exclude from the continuing moratorium on short-term rentals. l Sarah Bradford/courtesy map

“Vacation home rentals are a benefit to this community in these neighborhoods because of the tax revenue and the guest spending that they inject into our community, the jobs they support, the diversity they bring and the lower levels of complaints they have when they’re professionally managed,” Craigen said. “This makes sense.”

While all council members agreed to vote on cutting certain neighborhoods out of the moratorium, Lisel Petis and Heather Sloop raised concerns about a “gold rush” of applicants seeking permits as soon as the moratorium is lifted.

“Everyone says it’s so easy to get a permit, but it’s not that easy to get one,” Bradford said.

Spiro presented council members with data from the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors listing service about how many homes have been purchased over the past few years versus how many have obtained vacation home rental permits.

What are the rules?

• The city is currently requiring registration for vacation home rentals, not smaller short-term rentals, though Granicus, the company the city has hired to provide 24/7 enforcement, will be seeking registration from thousands of unregistered short-term rentals.

• Because the city does not require registration for short-term rentals, it is difficult to say how many are in the city, but AirDna, a website that tracks various data on short-term rentals, estimates there are 2,867 active units.

• Steamboat Springs City Council has not discussed policies for short-term rentals that are not considered vacation home rentals, but council members have expressed a desire to do so once all short-term rentals are registered with the city, which could be several months away.

• Any overlay zone or other policy adopted will apply to all short-term rentals, not just vacation home rentals.

Spiro said the city sees an average of 21 homeowners that apply for a permit each year, with 15 permits that expire and are not renewed, for a net of six new vacation home rental permits issued each year.

“This percentage of permits have actually decreased because the vast majority of these homes being bought are either full-time or second-home owners, and they’re not being rented,” Spiro said.

Council members began discussing short-term rental regulation because of complaints from residents living near such units who raised issues about noise and trash, as well as wanting full-time neighbors over rotating visitors. While short-term rentals are scattered across the city and county, AirDna shows most of them are in the area surrounding the resort.

Data from short-term rental tracking website AirDna shows where actively listed short-term rentals in Steamboat Springs reside. l AirDna/courtesy

Council members also discussed leaving Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street from Third Street to 13th Street out of future overlay zones.

“It is kind of crazy to have a moratorium if we know some of these areas aren’t going to have one,” Petis said. “We’re trying to create a short-term compromise to alleviate this small area.”

Council members scheduled a first reading on the ordinance carving certain areas out of the moratorium for Oct. 12 and a second reading for Oct. 19.

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