Steamboat Springs The city of Steamboat Springs has a lot on its plate right now. Its vacation home rental policy does not need to consume excessive amounts of time.
Last week, the City Council devoted an entire meeting to the vacation home ordinance that was adopted in 2001 and sets guidelines for short-term rental of single-family homes or duplexes. In February, after very vocal complaints about vacation home practices, the city issued a ban on new permits under the ordinance until it could address the concerns and clarify and revise the ordinance.
That was supposed to happen Tuesday. Instead, the City Council listened to lots of people talk but took no action.
Now, it could be May before the council addresses the issue again.
We understand how passionate people are about this matter, particularly those who live in areas where there are such rentals. That's why so many people turned out for Tuesday's meeting.
Opponents of vacation home rentals say the rentals cause turmoil in residential areas and lead to "erosion of neighborhoods." Supporters say the accusations grossly overstate the impacts of a business that is vital to the local resort economy.
An estimated 100 homes in the city are used as vacation rentals, but only about half of those have secured the proper permit with the city. We have no sympathy for those who have not secured a permit. If the city catches someone operating a vacation home without a permit, we would expect a hefty fine that truly discourages the practice.
Still, as Councilman Towny Anderson pointed out Tuesday, nearly all of the vacation rentals operate without complaint.
In fact, judging from the number of residents from the same neighborhood who showed up at Tuesday's meeting, perhaps this is less of a citywide issue and more a matter of dealing with one or two houses.
The council should instruct staff to come up with changes to the ordinance based on discussion at Tuesday's meeting.
We believe that the city ordinance should establish a reasonable cap on the number of people who can stay in a short-term rental and limit the number of vehicles permitted at a house. Homes should remain residential, with proper limits on kitchen and dining facilities. And the penalties for violating terms of the ordinance should be stiff enough to encourage playing by the rules.
Enforcement will be an issue - the city doesn't have the staffing to monitor vacation home rentals year-round, nor should it use its resources this way. What the ordinance can do is give the city a powerful tool to use when problems arise.
Vacation home rentals play an important role in our community, and we believe owners should have the right to use their properties in this way so long as they follow the city's rules. This is not an issue the city should have to review every few years.
Address the problem homes, clear confusing language in the vacation-home ordinance, lift the ban on new permits and move on.
Then, maybe we can identify solutions to more important issues such as affordable housing and recreation center plans.