Steamboat Springs Vacation Home Rental Alliance, a group of vacation home owners, property managers and concerned citizens, has reviewed the proposed revised Vacation Home Rental ordinance and has the following comments in advance of Tuesday's first reading of the ordinance by the City Council.
We are very disappointed with the proposal submitted by city staff. The revised ordinance is a slap in the face for a group that worked diligently to provide City Council and planning staff with factual information and reasonable recommendations for how the Vacation Home Rental regulations could be improved or tweaked, as City Council had directed. The revised ordinance is a 180-degree change of direction and is the outcome that we feared would result when we were summarily excluded from discussions that have ignored most of our recommendations.
Our goals were to:
- Make the registration process more user friendly so there would be 100-percent compliance by all rental homes (compared to less than 40 percent under the present code).
- Regulate only what is known to be a problem. Noise and parking already are defined by citywide ordinances. If there are specific documented problems with VHRs, then let's discuss how to control this. We do not wish to waste time regulating rumors.
- Do not make regulations that you cannot enforce. Regulation for regulation's sake is serving no one.
- VHRs should not be more regulated than other residential property. The proven low level of complaints suggests that it is unreasonable to discriminate against VHR properties.
Instead, city staff is recommending a VHR license that fails to meet these goals in a number of ways. Here's what we think of the proposal:
- Regulation for regulation's sake. No legitimate documented complaints have ever addressed lack of parking spaces, and now there is a formula requiring minimum numbers of spaces based on maximum occupancy. No complaints ever addressed having too many sleeping rooms and now they propose to arbitrarily limit this.
- Increased cost to VHR owners, who now must pay for surveys and floor plans as well as potential legal fees if their application is referred to City Council on the basis of a neighbor's arbitrary objection. These requirements are not justified by zero documented complaints in the 30-plus year history of VHRs in Steamboat.
- A complete reversal on policy regarding renewal of permits. These must now be renewed annually - planning staff requested in May 2006 for VHR permits to be made permanent due to the lack of complaints.
- A discretionary process is unfair. The potential for public hearings creates great uncertainty for property owners who wish to rent their home and have the flexibility to use it occasionally themselves. This income is a vital component for many in owning a home here. If there are zero complaints, why are we doing this?
Steamboat is the first ski town to over-regulate VHRs. VHRs provide families with the opportunity to vacation in a comfortable and private home environment. VHRs provide significant sales tax contributions to our economy, bringing annual revenue to the Yampa Valley in excess of $20 million. With a zero complaint rate, this proposed ordinance is unfair and unnecessary and implies governmental overreach at a time when there are more important issues to address in Steamboat Springs.
The VHR Alliance is committed to the protection of all property owner rights - whether those of residents, vacation home (second-home) owners and VHR owners. We will continue to offer our resources as a group that is representative of this lodging base, but we cannot lend our support to the proposed revisions of the VHR code.
Vice president, Steamboat Springs Vacation Home Rental Alliance