Steamboat Springs explores expanding licenses for short-term rentals
When Lynne Koehler bought two pieces of property in Steamboat Springs, she asked herself which home could be responsibly used as a short-term rental for visitors without creating excessive noise or changing the character of a neighborhood where locals have historically lived.
Of her two properties — one on Cherry Drive and one in Storm Meadows Club Condominiums — Koehler felt the Storm Meadows property made more sense as a short-term rental because visitors would appreciate the ski-in, ski-out opportunity, and Cherry Drive is full of children, families and long-term renters.
“I was worried about creating extra noise and trash on the streets and taking away from the family and local environment,” Koehler said. “I specifically remember the conversation of having to look at neighborhoods so that the nightly rental doesn’t permeate into the neighborhood.”
Ultimately, Koehler said she makes more money renting the property to nightly users than she would to a resident, which is why she opted for that option for the Storm Meadows property, but rents the Cherry Drive property to a restaurant worker in town.
In an effort to address some of the issues Koehler has grappled with, the city of Steamboat Springs has long required permitting for short-term nightly rentals in certain parts of the city, but now, city leaders are looking at the possibility of requiring a license for short-term rentals anywhere in town.
City staff have been studying the issue for years and hope to present their findings to Steamboat Springs City Council in June. If council members give the green light, staff hope to have the program implemented by the end of the year.
“The intention of the license is we want to collect data, we want to know where these units are, how many are out there,” said Rebecca Bessey, city planning and community development director. “We want to be able to track those over time and see if they’re changing and what neighborhoods they’re occurring in.”
Bessey said she and other staff members, as well as City Council members, receive several emails a day on the topic, and most emails are concerned with preserving the character of Steamboat’s neighborhoods, as many residents believe short-term rentals create a different environment in local neighborhoods.
“One reason for the license is so that we can implement some minimum operation requirements for short-term rentals across the board,” Bessey said. “We want to ensure that there are rules regarding parking, trash, noise, those kinds of things.”
Bessey said the city would like to collect information on where such rentals are located and implement inspections every three to five years to ensure each unit is following safety codes and not creating issues in neighborhoods.
“Typically, one of the biggest complaints we hear right now is noise and that there’s partying going on in the middle of the night or guests are loud,” Bessey said, adding police are often called but can only address the complaint in the immediate timeframe. “We don’t have a means to cross-reference those complaints with where short-term rentals exist.”
By having a license tied to each unit, Bessey and City Council President Jason Lacy said they hope to implement better strategies for enforcing rules in response to repeated complaints.
“Our job is to facilitate these conversations and collect that feedback, so that Planning Commission and City Council can make an informed decision,” Bessey said.
However, some residents said the conversation is years too late, and short-term rentals are already causing too many problems for the city in neighborhoods farther away from Steamboat Resort.
“The city and the county need to get off their asses and do something,” said Roger Ashton, former Yampa Valley Housing Authority president. “‘They could start to think creatively about this kind of stuff.”
As for what solutions the city could implement, Ashton said he believes there could be a way to incentivize property owners if they rent long term to locals. He also suggests placing limits on where short-term rentals are allowed.
Ashton said he wondered why so many residents were deeply concerned about seasonal events, such as Triple Crown Sports, but were not equally concerned with nightly visitors.
“There’s all this brouhaha about Triple Crown,” Ashton said. “Why don’t we have the same brouhaha about all the other nightly rentals. It’s people who are coming here on vacation and partying, and they don’t care about this community.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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