Steamboat planning commission weighs caps on short-term rentals
After Steamboat Springs City Council raised interest in the topic, Steamboat Springs Planning Commissioners began the first of many discussions about whether or not a cap on short-term rentals is in the city’s future.
City Council is six months into a moratorium on applying for vacation home rentals. While the city has a pause on accepting applications, the planning commission has been tasked with outlining overlay zones where short-term rentals could eventually be allowed by-right, restricted to specific circumstances or prohibited altogether.
At their Monday, Jan. 24, meeting, commissioners shared mixed opinions on whether they liked the idea of a cap, with most agreeing they wanted to continue the discussion but were nowhere near ready to make final decisions.
Durango, Crested Butte, Estes Park, Breckenridge and Glenwood Springs all have caps, with each municipality using a different criteria to determine an exact cap.
What caps could look like in Steamboat will be up to commissioners and, ultimately, City Council. But city staff suggested commissioners use proposed overlay zones, which are based off the character and density of a neighborhood, to help guide their thinking.
Commissioner David Baldinger Jr. said while a cap may work in other mountain communities, the idea is not in Steamboat’s best interest because of the way the city is laid out, with its resort and downtown districts being separate.
“I don’t think that caps will be as good a tool for Steamboat as they are for other communities,” he said.
Still, Baldinger Jr. said, caps may be more appropriate in some areas than others. The proposed yellow zone, where commissioners have identified streets that could allow short-term rentals only under specific circumstances — like a family renting out their house for a week out of the year while they vacation — could be a place for caps.
“I’m not opposed to caps in the yellow zones, because that might solve some of the intensity questions,” Baldinger Jr. said. “Maybe it’s more appropriate to have intensity on Snowflake Circle than it is on Pine Street.”
Planning Director Rebecca Bessey said caps could be hard to outline because of the way Steamboat’s streets are set up — curving around mountains, intersecting with other streets and including everything from multifamily condos to multimillion dollar single-family homes.
“What’s zoned one way in Old Town may look different than something zoned the same way on the south side of town,” Bessey said.
Commissioner Jeff Steck said caps could address the main complaint many in town have raised around short-term rentals: They bring excess noise, trash and other issues to traditional neighborhoods.
“No one in Old Town is calling me up and saying we need more short-term rentals,” said Commissioner Jeff Steck. “I get people calling me up because they say, ‘I have this one short-term rental, and I can’t stand living here’ — not two or five, but one.’”
Ptach suggested a cap limiting the number of nightly rentals allowed in more traditional local neighborhoods — such as Fish Creek, Blue Sage and Bear Drive — while leaving neighborhoods near the base of Steamboat Resort without limitations.
Other commissioners wanted to continue focusing on drawing overlay zones without worrying about caps just yet.
“In trying to wrap my head around caps and looking at other communities, I don’t feel like they’re the same as us,” said Commissioner Jessica Hearns. “I’m open to caps, but I think the overlay zone is a little bit more stable and equitable.”
Chair Brian Adams agreed that overlay zones should be a first priority, with caps being a supplement to help the original concept of overlays.
Specifically, Adams wanted to differentiate between locals who occasionally short-term rent their house and multiproperty owners who are profiting off a nightly rental.
“I like the idea of adding more depth to our overlay zone by making those yellow area slightly different,” Adams said. “I would not want our yellow zone district to start becoming a fully commercial thing.”
Any decision commissioners make will ultimately have to be approved by City Council.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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