Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Steamboat Springs City officials ruled in favor of a Meadow Lane vacation home rental permit Monday night, but decided to temporarily ban new permits due to disputed regulations that one official called "unenforceable."
The Steamboat Springs City Council's decision to not revoke the vacation home rental permit held by Suzanne Noble, who co-owns a large home adjacent to Whistler Park at 1530 Meadow Lane, is the council's second such ruling in two weeks. During quasi-judicial hearings that led to the rulings, council members, attorneys, vacation home owners and their neighbors have all debated how to interpret sections of the city's vacation home rental ordinance. Due to the uncertainty, the City Council agreed Monday to place an "emergency moratorium" on tonight's council agenda. The moratorium will ban city issuance of new vacation rental permits for up to 90 days, while the City Council works to revise the ordinance.
"The way our ordinance is written right now, there is potential for total mockery of the original intent," council member Towny Anderson said.
Vacation home rentals are residential homes that owners rent to short-term vacationers or for private functions.
The City Council established a city ordinance regulating vacation home rentals in 2001, after several years of debate, and has since issued more than 50 vacation rental permits to homeowners and property managers in Steamboat Springs.
The city permits vacation home rentals through a conditional land-use approval process that requires the owner to meet numerous criteria, such as a limited number of simultaneous guests and vehicles.
The questions arise from how to best determine, monitor and enforce those criteria.
"This is unenforceable - I think you've been presented with an impossible task," Anderson told Tom Leeson, director of city planning services.
"I do too," Leeson agreed.
City planning staff first notified Noble of possible violations in September, and she was given 15 days to achieve compliance with vacation rental criteria.
In October, the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission found Noble in compliance and voted to not revoke her rental permit despite noise, traffic and snow removal complaints from neighbors. Chuck Williamson, who lives at 1525 Meadow Lane, appealed that ruling and, in Monday's hearing, showed the City Council photographs of what he called traffic violations by recent vacationers at Noble's house.
"We've got some disagreements about the facts here tonight - we just want our neighborhood back," Williamson told the council. "If I believe that (Noble) is conducting rentals that are not in compliance, I will continue to file complaints."
The council's 6-0 decision Monday upheld the Planning Commission's ruling.
"I have not done anything wrong since (September)," Noble said. "The house has been pretty much rented for the past month, and I've gotten no complaints."
At a Jan. 24 meeting, the City Council supported the vacation home rental permit of Laurrelle Crawford, who manages a Ridge Road vacation home known as Bear Berry Cottage. That council ruling upheld an October decision by Leeson, who determined that a revocation hearing was not warranted for Crawford, again despite protests by neighbors.
The council's support of Noble's permit has a condition that the permit will be terminated upon sale of the Meadow Lane home, which she has placed on the market.
Noble said she does not plan to pursue vacation home rentals elsewhere in Steamboat.
"It's not worth it," she said.
"I think it's evident that we have some work to do revising this," City Council President Pro-tem Steve Ivancie said of the ordinance.
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