Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Steamboat Springs More than three hours of emotional public comment Tuesday night stalled action on a controversial city ordinance that impacts scores of local homeowners.
In a meeting that drew more than 50 people to Centennial Hall, the Steamboat Springs City Council made no revisions to the city's vacation home rental ordinance because of a flood of public debate that City Council President Susan Dellinger said got the council "bogged down in the past" on an issue that arose more than six years ago. Tuesday's inaction means next week the council will consider extending the city's temporary ban on new vacation home rental permits - a potential blow to property owners hoping to rent their homes to summer vacationers in coming months.
The original, 90-day ban was implemented in February to give the council time to revise unclear sections of the rental ordinance.
Due to Tuesday's inaction and a packed schedule for future council meetings, work on those revisions may not resume until late May.
"I really had more hope for tonight," City Council President Susan Dellinger said. "We re-visited where I didn't want to go."
Vacation home rentals are homes in residential neighborhoods that are rented to short-term vacationers and sometimes used for private functions.
Opponents of vacation home rentals said the rentals cause turmoil in residential areas and lead to "erosion of neighborhoods," while supporters said the accusations "grossly overstated the impacts" of the business that is vital to the local economy.
Tuesday's meeting was dominated by homeowners and home renters on Ridge Road, which is the site of several vacation rental properties that resident Dorian Welch called "mini-hotels." Welch said by providing services such as catered meals and shuttle rides, vacation rentals create a use that is not residential, but commercial.
"Our position is that mini-hotels should not be allowed in single-family neighborhoods, period," Welch said. "The envelope has been pushed beyond what was ever intended."
The vacation rental industry likely provides income for more than 100 Steamboat homeowners, according to industry professionals. That is more than double the amount permitted by the city, which has issued only about 50 vacation rental permits since adopting a regulatory ordinance in 2001.
Ralph Senner, who has operated a vacation rental on Ridge Road for 23 years with his wife Christy Senner, said recent civil complaints about noise and traffic issues caused by vacation rentals are a "witch hunt" that could be avoided with a simple conversation.
"It's all about being good neighbors," Senner said. "If there's an issue, please call me."
Dellinger said discussing whether vacation home rentals should even be allowed in Steamboat Springs was not the intent of Tuesday's meeting, which was designed to fix the regulation of a rental industry that has been in place for years and boosts Steamboat's tourism economy.
In recent months, how to govern vacation rentals has led to revocation hearings, quasi-judicial proceedings, and a lawsuit filed against the city by Ridge Road homeowners.