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Steamboat votes to extend moratorium on vacation home rental permits

Many of Steamboat’s short-term rentals are in the area known as “condo land” south of Walton Creek Road.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot

Steamboat Springs City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend a moratorium on vacation home rental permits until June 30.

Council members still have to vote on second reading for the moratorium to be extended, but they all agreed on first reading after Planning Director Rebecca Bessey asked council to give the planning commission more time to craft new policies regulating short-term rentals.

“I am in favor of longer, so that we have enough time to go through the process, and we don’t have to keep revisiting and extending,” Bessey told council members in December. “But I also understand that this is time-sensitive, and we have to be reasonable and move forward.”



What are the rules?

• Steamboat Springs requires a permit only to operate a vacation home rental, which is a house or duplex with a yard. The moratorium does not apply to condos being rented, which do not require a permit.

• The moratorium applies to all areas of the city except the “resort residential” and “gondola zones.” Those zones can be viewed at SteamboatSprings.net/DocumentCenter/View/421/CityZoningMap?bidId=.

In 2021, the city hired the short-term rental enforcement company Granicus to bring all short-term rentals into compliance with city code.

Because most short-term rentals are operating without a permit, no one seems to know exactly how many are in the city, but property managers and short-term rental tracking websites estimate there are about 3,000-4,000 in Steamboat.



Council enacted the moratorium in June to try to rein in the illegal rentals. At the same time, members directed the planning commission to begin outlining overlay zones where short-term rentals could be allowed, restricted or prohibited entirely.

Months into the moratorium, the previous council nixed several streets around Steamboat Resort from the moratorium, as members felt those areas would allow short-term rentals once the planning commission draws its map.

While council members were on the same page about extending the moratorium on Tuesday, Jan. 4, some were more enthusiastic than others.

Council President Robin Crossan felt the reasons council enacted the moratorium had been achieved and said the reasons for keeping it were no longer applicable.

“Its purpose was to do something with short-term rentals and get the people in this community involved,” Crossan said. “We haven’t gotten to the end goal, but we’ve accomplished that.“

In contrast, council member Dakotah McGinlay asked to put the moratorium back on the streets that were nixed, as she felt allowing permit applications in some areas but not others has created confusion.

McGinlay also cited concern with a “gold rush” of applicants flooding the city. The city has received 18 applications since council cut certain streets out, which McGinlay saw as a problem.

“I just think that planning commission should be able to spend their time and energy on the issues at hand, rather than trying to process the applications that come through,” McGinlay said. “We should also try to focus on bringing balance back to our housing stock.“

The planning department has a full-time staff member who processes vacation home rental applications. The staff member is separate from the planning commission, which is a group of volunteers who make policy and suggest it to council.

Council member Michael Buccino disagreed with McGinlay, as Buccino felt the areas cut out would ultimately allow nightly rentals, and owners who bought their properties intending to rent them should be able to do so.

“These are areas that are inherently for nightly rentals and not affordable housing,” Buccino said. “There is a logical reason why the base of a world-class ski resort will have vacation home rentals.”

In disputing McGinlay’s point, Buccino, an interior designer and tiny home developer, mentioned he has had clients purchase property in the area for the purpose of nightly renting.

Council member Heather Sloop, who owns a painting business, pointed out the potential conflict with Buccino having clients in the area, as she believed Buccino could have a financial incentive to vote on specific short-term rental policies.

However, Buccino saw it differently.

“What I’m bringing is my experience of the property owners and the second homeowners who are paying taxes and things that come from their lodging,” Buccino said. “I’m trying to be a voice for my clients that are property owners and second homeowners in this town.”


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