Letter to the editor: Writer wants opinions

Routt County is now considering the revision of county residential zoning to include short-term house rentals. Short-term is defined as a few days up to 30 days. These are generally known as “vacation house rentals” (VHRs) and mostly rented through the Internet (VRBO, AirB ‘n’ B, etc.).

I would like to hear the opinions of our county rural residents regarding this new possibility. Most of Routt County is currently zoned Agriculture and Forestry (AF) with minimum 35-acre lots and VHRs are not legal.

Gary Pon provided insight into and demonstration of the lack of practical enforceability of the current city VHR rules in his letter to the editor Sept 15. These city rules and enforcement mechanisms are the template for proposed county rules.

My perspective is that the current city VHR rules are not only unenforceable, but more fundamentally, the impacts to rural neighborhoods by VHRs are incompatible with rural living. VHRs are commercial and would be selling our rural neighborhood environment for profit. They would be bringing the impacts of vacationers while not contributing to the neighborhood.

I have experience living beside a VHR and can describe the impacts as very intrusive to our rural neighborhood. Noise, high volume of vehicles coming to and from, vehicles parked on the common roadways, loose and barking dogs, trash scattered around the neighborhood, too many people for the capacity of the house utilities (toilets, well water, parking spaces, etc.) and compromised security of surrounding residences.

These VHR renters have nothing invested in the neighborhood so they don’t care about their intrusive impacts. In our case, the owners lived 1,000 miles away and also did not care. VHRs are fundamentally incompatible with rural living. And enforcement is ineffective, partly, since reporting of these intrusions, often on weekends, to county officials yields a response several days later after the renters have vacated.

The argument put forward for developing rules and allowing VHRs by some permit system is that when they are regulated they will become less intrusive. Help me with the logic here — currently these VHRs are prohibited, and there is effectively no enforcement of this prohibition.

The county then develops rules with restrictions to minimize the intrusiveness, and we are to expect these illegal operations will line up at the county building to voluntarily become regulated and pay a fee to continue doing what they are already illegally doing without any regulation, fee or penalty? Hmmm…

The only change that will occur with regulation of VHRs is some house owners who abide by the rules will see a means to commercialize their houses and make some extra money. And, the number of VHRs will increase without bringing into compliance the currently illegal ones.

When all of us purchased our property, we knew the zoning restrictions so there is no legitimate argument that once anyone owns his property he is entitled to do anything with it that he pleases. Just ask anyone making this argument if they would like a neighbor to build beside them a 7–11 store or hog feedlot operation or a tear gas production plant as neighbors discovered in a ranch barn near Casper, Wyoming, a decade ago.

Zoning in Routt grew out of the 1970s to eliminate this incompatibility of land use. Now, 40 years later, we are considering opening up rural residential land use to high-impact VHR operations. Incompatible and unenforceable.

Rodger Steen

Routt County resident

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