Letter: Fire, ready, aim
The Steamboat Springs City Council’s short-term rental work session Aug. 17 was an excellent example of how difficult local governance can be. During a late-night discussion and straw poll, council members demonstrated how complex the issues are around a new short-term rental overlay zone impacting hundreds, if not thousands, of Steamboat homeowners and dozens of local business owners.
An overlay zone is an overly broad way to meet Steamboat’s regulation, licensing and enforcement needs regarding short-term rentals. A new overlay zone will say “short-term rentals OK here, not OK here.”
Planning and Community Development Director Rebecca Bessey introduced an overlay zoning map at the work session by saying, “I really want to be clear, though, at this point, the map that is included in your packet and that we are going to go through tonight is not a staff recommendation. I don’t think we are there, yet.” Bessey also stated, “I can’t stress enough that putting these lines on a map is a difficult task; none of it is clear.” Bessey’s introductory warning did not stop council proceeding with the overlay zone as initially drawn by planning.
Council began discussing the overlay zone map in the packet at 9:30 p.m., with just five council members in attendance. Planning did the best job they could pulling together the data council requested for the work session in a very short time, but the overlay zoning map lacked detail regarding property values and local density council requested.
The overlay zone map City Council handed back after a 45-minute discussion slashed short-term rentals in 80% of Steamboat, even where HOAs currently permit them. The proposed map will have a harmful effect on the property rights of thousands of homeowners. The discussion represented a haphazard process of choosing winners and losers, lacking data to back up council’s direction.
Steamboat’s new short-term rental overlay zone should be designed with a sharp pencil, not the 4-inch paint brush seen at Tuesday’s work session. Council is pushing Planning for a Sept. 9 reading of a new overlay zone ordinance, an incredibly difficult task in just two weeks.
The Steamboat community deserves better than a rushed attempt at new zoning laws. Council’s current direction does not serve the citizens of Steamboat well and will result in years of litigation from impacted property owners. Why is City Council rushing through this process?
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