City Council gets an earful

City Council struggles with rental policy at packed meeting

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— 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.

Comments

RouCou 7 years, 8 months ago

Size matters. In some cases the size of the vacation home rental has little or no impact on the surrounding area. It is when you plop a huge building that can sleep 20+ people in the middle of a neighborhood that you start having the problems. Question. Why is it that a Bed and Breakfast has to conform to certain safety stipulations? Even the smallest of hotels have to obey the rules to set regulations. These "Vacation Homes" seem to slip under the radar. It is a boon for the property salesmen and those who can not quite afford a house in SS. Just build or buy a monster house in any neighborhood and change it into a small hotel. Excuse me I meant a nightly weekly: I meant a Vacation home: I meant an investment:., at the expense of the community that makes Steamboat what it is. There has to be some balance. These monster homes that rival a small hotel must be looked at for what it is. A lodge without having to follow all the regulations.

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thecondoguy1 7 years, 8 months ago

RouCou, very well said in a nice way, leaving out the fact that some of these vacationers can be very rude and inconsiderate, not to mention maniac drivers, when they are feeling like Donald Trump in their rented mansion..... people don't quite so easily leave their manners behind when they are in a properly structured set up, such as a real hotel, or condotel, with a front desk, and personel around. people's behavior has changed with the years and influences that abound, and probably not to the good, rules and regulations must be changed to keep up with this behavior. It's happening all over the world Steamboat is no exception, again, when you are green you are growing, when you are ripe you rot.

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Gadfly 7 years, 8 months ago

That's it! Susan Dellinger has come up with the perfect motto for this City Council: "Bogged Down." I see the logo as a person sinking into a pond of quicksand. The motto and logo could be embroidered onto Council's ski jackets and golf shirts for when they use their passes. But seriously, the principle here should be that the privilege of renting to visitors must ALWAYS come second to the right of full-time residents to have quiet enjoyment of their homes.

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Icare 7 years, 8 months ago

Lose control of your zoning, lose control of your resort. Not one VHR operator was concerned about the integrity and character of all of Steamboat's residential neighborhoods. The motto seems to be "make money, not good neighbors". A City Council without the "political will" to protect the zoning in our residential neighborhoods is a sham. Wonder how many Council members have been personally impacted by mini-hotels in their neighborhoods? Wonder when it will happen in your residential neighborhood? Don't forget the commercial kitchen that will "pop up" next!

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Scott Wedel 7 years, 8 months ago

If city zoning made any sense then vacation rental home in a residential area would have to follow the basic definition of single family (and duplex) zoning which defines that a single family home cannot be shared by more than three (3) adults unless all are related.

Multi-family (condos) residences are allowed to have upto 5 unrelated adults.

A vacation home would not be a big deal if it was just a matter of different families staying in a house and were generally living like their neighbors.

It is a problem when being a vacation house allows uses not permitted by owner occupied neighbors and allows far more frequent parties and events than normal in a residential neighborhood.

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SangriaMama 7 years, 8 months ago

Do you people realize how silly you sound! I have been driving around Ridge Road and Burgess Creek Rd looking for signs pointing to these mini-hotels you keep talking about. There's no "Vacancy"sign, so how do I check in to one of these luxury facilities? There's no valet parking...am I supposed to just park on the street? In fact there's nothing that looks anything like a hotel up there.

What I did see was a ghost neighborhood, although one car I passed did glare at me like I am not allowed to be there - hey! it's a city street, so what's your problem!

I didn't see cars scattered everywhere, I couldn't hear the sound of music, or anything, other than a coyote. I just don't get what the issue is....a touch of NIMBYISM maybe...

Come on people - get a life!

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panky 7 years, 8 months ago

Who said we have a community? We have a resort!

Steamboat has been promoting itself as a commodity for over 30 years and it won't stop. We've said, "Please come, drop a lot of dollars, then leave."

There are those who think that since we have local government we are a community. But the community is just not what drives this place. Every chamber topic, every decision and discussion comes back to The Resort.

A "real world" town of this size doesn't get to build the monoliths Steamboat Springs has planned. Those buildings are too big for our population needs and are probably not quite big enough for The Resort.

Steamboat Springs is not the little ranching town it used to be. That town died a slow death.

Heck, I'd bet 95% of the people that live here now wouldn't give this place a second look if it went back to that little burg that so many people miss.

In fact, outsiders used to be slightly uncomfortable here. Seriously. Locals could look you in the eye when you passed on the street and say, "Hello." The folks from somewhere else couldn't do that. It was too personal, too threatening to their urban protective barriers.

But there was this polite, caring and genuine concern for the other folks that shared this valley with you and it was easy to tell who the locals were. You didn't need a WZ license plate to tell you. Locals didn't tailgait, speed through neighborhoods for a thrill, or mistreat their neightbors. There was always a genuine respect that came back to you.

So now most people won't look you in the eye and the WZ license plates are all made-up vanity plates with 10 year newbies behind the wheel.

But back to the housing rentals... this place will turn into a town full of houses occupied by renters. If there's money to be made, that's what will happen.

I'm looking for my next Steamboat Springs (the one that died) and there are lots of them out there.

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BearBerry 7 years, 8 months ago

Hey guys ... the problem here is that you don't have enough information!

Ridge Road may be zoned "single family residential" but the reality is that the vast majority of homes and vacate lots are owned by non residents of Steamboat who use their property for their vacations or investment. Yup, even Dorian Walsh, one of the head complainers from RRCA, lives in Denver. When they're not here the neighborhood is a ghost zone and when they are here they have parties and BBQs and enjoy the use of their homes, just as my guests do. I think it's a bit selfish to want to be the "king on the hill" and not let anyone else play in the sandbox... yes?

Laurrelle Crawford

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