Robin Craigen, owner of Moving Mountain Chalets, stands in front of one of the homes he manages in Steamboat Springs.

Photo by John F. Russell

Robin Craigen, owner of Moving Mountain Chalets, stands in front of one of the homes he manages in Steamboat Springs.

Vacation rental issue returns to Steamboat

Opinions flare ahead of vacation home review Tuesday night


Past Event

Steamboat Springs City Council meeting

  • Tuesday, February 1, 2011, 5 p.m.
  • Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs
  • Not available



Robin Craigen, owner of Moving Mountain Chalets, sits in front of one of the homes he manages in Steamboat Springs.


Robin Craigen, owner of Moving Mountain Chalets, talks about his business in Steamboat Springs.

On the agenda

■ 4:30 p.m. Reception for outgoing City Councilman Jim Engelken, whose last meeting is Tuesday. Engelken previously served on City Council from 1995 to 2001 and was re-elected in November 2009. Engelken is moving to the Front Range with his family and announced his resignation June 15.

■ 5 p.m. City Council meets as the Steamboat Springs Liquor License Authority.

■ 5:10 p.m. Work session on the city’s vacation home rental regulations, scheduled for an hour; work session on transfer of development rights

■ 7 p.m. Public comment; report from historic preservation commission; resolution approving a $21,450 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado for the Little Toots Restroom Project, for which the city would provide matching funds; public hearing of preliminary plat for parcel at Casey’s Pond, north of Walton Creek Road

— One of the city’s most emotionally charged issues returns to Centennial Hall on Tuesday night, and some hope to expand the discussion of vacation home rentals beyond the three topics slated for review.

“I believe that this has gotten to a point where it’s reached an industrial type of level,” Steamboat Springs resident Bill Moser said about the local vacation home rental business, in which homes — often luxury residences near Mount Werner — are rented to visitors for multiday stays. “It hurts my property values, it hurts my peace and quiet — these things tend to grow, like the (bark) beetles. … I want that discussed, and some limits placed on it.”

Moser and several other residents of the Burgess Creek area have long sought to place tighter restrictions on vacation home rentals, citing impacts such as noise and traffic from visitors coming and going, primarily in the winter months.

On the flip side of the argument are property managers such as Robin Craigen, whose Moving Mountains Chalets offers vacation rentals at 20 local homes. Craigen and other managers say vacation home rental impacts are minimal and largely outweighed by benefits such as stimulation of the local economy and job creation in a resort community that thrives on tourism dollars.

The Steamboat Springs City Council adopted vacation home rental regulations in 2001 and revised them in 2007. Jonathan Spence, interim director of the city’s Department of Planning and Community Development, said Tuesday night’s Steamboat Springs City Council work session in Centennial Hall is intended to focus solely on three issues: rental properties that have a shared access, such as a driveway, with a residential home; parking regulations; and the fee structure for vacation home rental permits.

Moser said limiting the discussion to those items occurred “over our strong objections,” the “our” referring to other mountain area residents in favor of tighter restrictions. Craigen, however, said the debate about whether to allow vacation home rentals ended years ago.

“We’re way past that point,” Craigen said. “The idea is to look at what real impacts are left.”

City planner Jason Peasley agreed with that perspective last week.

“I think we’ve gone through (the issue) several times, and we’ve realized that we don’t, at the moment, have any desire politically to limit the numbers,” Peasley said. “The impacts of these VHRs are pretty localized … but I think people realize the larger benefits these provide to the city.”

Spence said there are 75 to 80 vacation home rentals in Steamboat.

“We have a stable amount of them,” Spence said, acknowledging the issue’s emotional nature. “Certainly for some members of the community, this is a very hot topic.”

Spence said city planning staff is taking no position on the issue of shared access and easements. He said staff is recommending a flat fee for vacation home rental permit renewals, which currently cost $50 per bedroom. Parking regulations should be reached on a case-by-case basis, he said, with maximum parking limits set according to a vacation rental’s location and layout.

Moser emphasized that he’s hoping for a broader discussion Tuesday.

“What we’re trying to do is make it certain that people don’t do this kind of thing in residential neighborhoods. … Each time someone opens a VHR, it’s at someone else’s expense,” Moser said. “We’ll see what happens (Tuesday). … I have a feeling the majority of our current City Council seems to be more interested in enhancing the economics of our town than the quality of life that brings everybody here in the first place.”

Craigen, pointing to several large, empty homes on Ski Trail Lane last week, said that economic enhancement is a significant benefit that’s vital for the city.

“Most of these other homes are sitting empty most of the year — and what does that contribute to our town?” Craigen said. “I think this is a great example of what we should be excited about having.”


addlip2U 6 years, 10 months ago

Excited? For you own greed! Just be happy with what you have.
Vacation home rental IS a business just like a hotel or motel and must comply with rules and regulations (fire access/safety, food/health safety, parking, noise ordinance, traffic, etc.) and be mindful of the impact on its neighbors, just like any commercial property does.
VHR has a negative impact on Residential area. VHR does NOT belong in the RESIDENTIAL area. When is enough ENOUGH!


Cooke 6 years, 10 months ago

Addlip - "Vacation home rental IS a business just like a hotel or motel and must comply with rules and regulations (fire access/safety, food/health safety, parking, noise ordinance, traffic, etc.)"

Unless I am reading the article wrong, aren't these issues the ones they are talking about addressing?

As far as noise, there are plenty of local parties that get the cops called for noise violations. VHR or not, fire safety , parking, noise, traffic are all areas that locals as well as tourists must be mindful of.

For my own two cents, which I know you are all waiting for with baited breath, it seems like if you own a home in a resort town, especially in an area like Burgess Creek, you should expect tourists.

I would also hesitate to label someone as greedy just because thay are trying to grow their business. Smacks as hypocritical.


John Fielding 6 years, 10 months ago


What we might find is that yet again a "one size fits all" regulation needs to be modified to reasonably accommodate differences in situation.

Just one example, some places may have more than adequate provision for a dozen vehicles while at others more than two is too many.

We should never be unwilling to consider changes to regulations, as far as I know none of them are perfect yet.



Scott Wedel 6 years, 10 months ago

Well, the big issue regarding these rentals is whether they are like residential homes in a residential zoned neighborhood or are they like hotels that should be in a commercially zoned neighborhood.

And when the websites for the management companies advertise services such as corporate meetings that would appear to violate residential zoning then there is reason for the neighbors to question if that is conforming to zoning.

Our residential zoning also limits how many adults, not all related can live in a residential house. So someone like Bill Moser cannot legally share his house with another family, but a VHR can advertise that it has 8 bedrooms and take reservations for 10+ adults.

I think if VHRs had to be operated so that they conformed to the residential zoning of the neighborhood then there would be few issues.


addlip2U 6 years, 10 months ago

Cooke, we agree, it IS a business. And therefore does not belong into residential neighborhood.


Cooke 6 years, 9 months ago

Scott -- that seems reasonable. However, I would reiterate what John says above regarding "one size fits all." I do believe that there should be restrictions placed which minimize the impact on residents, however, we cannot escape the reality that this is a resort town. Therefore we cannot expect there to be no VHRs.

Add -- your argument just smacks too much of a Kennedyesque "not in my back yard" and personally I find it snobbish. But to each his own. As I live in South Routt, I do not have to deal with it - so you probably have more dog in this fight.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 9 months ago

Cooke, The big issue is not that a house is being rented for another family (or even two families) to use during their SB vacation. If that was going on then it would be a minor issue.

The issue is that there are vacation rental housing that is being operated far more like a hotel than a residential house. Not only are they offering corporate services that obviously belong in a hotel, these houses have shuttle vans, daily maid service, all meals catered and so on that is far more like a hotel than a residential house. And all of this commercial stuff is how the property is being promoted by the management companies.

I think this issue has been sold to the public as a most cynical bait and switch. It is sold as just letting vacationing families rent a house and the switch is that it is being operated as a hotel. And SB has relatively strict zoning on residential use for the homeowner, but then waives virtually all of it for VHRs.


John Fielding 6 years, 9 months ago


Scott you have a point about the zoning seeming more restrictive for residents than rentals.

I believe than in many cases the restrictions should not be imposed on the residents either.

A prime example is regulations limiting the number of unrelated adults in a residence.

Many of the residents in town live in roommate arrangements, five singles, three couples, etc.

Just look at the classified ads, dozens of them, our enforcement officers could have a field day.

But this is not something we really want to enforce, it's in the code just because it can be.

Many are stable households, some have a higher turnover, was one next door to me for years.

This is not our governments business, it's usually people finding the real "affordable housing".

Or, I suppose, they can call themselves a religious order, commune, or comrades in arms.

Real nuisances need regulation, unreasonable noise, obstructing access, littering, damages.

But businesses in residential neighborhoods abound, many by right, many by conditional use.

These neighborhoods are for people to live in, for a day, week, month, year or several.

Our governments business is to limit itself and the requests it fulfills to the essentials.



Scott Wedel 6 years, 9 months ago

Or to look at it from another perspective, some of these VHRs have much more going on than a Bed and Breakfast, but do not have to go through any of the approvals required of a bed and breakfast.

I think it would be reasonable to look at the number of vehicle trips to and from a VHR and compare that to typical residential use. If the number of trips with shuttles and other services is much greater than normal residential use then it should be asked whether or not that added traffic has a impact on the neighbors. If the property has easy access on a busy street then the impact would appear to be minimal. But on a low traffic residential street then that traffic would have a larger impact on the neighbors. Also, some of these streets and shared driveways were not designed for the larger shuttle vans and cannot handle two way traffic during the winter.

I think it would be fair to look at the location and access situation to a VHR and set limits on number of vehicle trips related to services provided or organized by the management company. And, in some cases, limit the size of vehicles used for those trips.


John Fielding 6 years, 9 months ago


May a corporation own a home in a residential neighborhood and use it for employee vacations?

May an individual own a home and allow guests to use it, providing shuttle and maid services?

If these are legitimate uses of private residential property, is charging a fee so very different?



Scott Wedel 6 years, 9 months ago

John, A resident cannot legally use their home for corporate meetings.

And since 4 or more adults cannot live in a house unless all are related then the answer would generally be 'no' to the questions of guests. Homeowners have very limited rights under SB zoning to have guests live in their house. It is rarely enforced.

And your point of view of your questions ignores the reality that these VHRs are openly acknowledged as being businesses in residential neighborhoods and, as businesses, can be regulated. These business are sold to the public as being minimal impact, as just letting a family rent a house for their SB vacation, but some of them are operated like full service hotels and have far more impact on their neighborhood than any of the other properties.

Is it possible for a residential house to contrive a way to have a major impact on the neighborhood? Of course, but that is not the issue. The issue is the impact of some businesses operating in residential neighborhoods.


John Fielding 6 years, 9 months ago


Just because something can be regulated does not mean it should be, and over-reaching regulations often become the norm.

Unreasonably offensive actions should be restricted, but we must be sure that those offended are not being unreasonable.

It should not be our governments job to make sure nothing offensive ever happens, only to be willing and able to respond when such conditions arise.




Scott Wedel 6 years, 9 months ago

John, So what does that mean?

That neighbors upset with a nearby VHR operated like a hotel should go to the City so the rules are modified so that VHRs are operated like residential housing? Isn't that exactly what they are doing?

This issue is not that someone came up with the brilliant idea to use a residential house to provide nice short term rental housing to tourists, but government is proposing all sorts of regulations based upon phantom fears that will kill that business idea. No, VHRs have been going on for quite a while and neighbors are reacting to the impacts of how some are being operated. The impacts are not theoretical, but have been happening right here, right now.


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