North Routt landowner asks Routt County commissioners to allow short-term rentals

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— When the housing market tanked in Routt County at the end of the past decade, Dave and Michelle Barnes already had moved to Steamboat Springs, but their home in Hahn’s Peak Village languished on the market.

As Dave Barnes explained Tuesday to the Routt County Board of Commissioners, financial difficulties related to the property and the inability to sell it left him looking to short-term vacation rentals through the website www.vrbo.com to keep making his mortgage payments.

Unfortunately, short-term rentals run afoul of zoning regulations that prohibit such use across the county except in commercial districts, of which there are few, and Barnes has been approached by the Routt County Planning Department about the violation multiple times.

Barnes was before the commissioners Tuesday asking for a zoning change that would allow his short-term rentals to continue. The commissioners unanimously directed the county attorney to pursue enforcement of the current zoning regulations.

Complaints by Scott and Michelle Denniston, Barnes’ neighbors, detail the short-term rental of the property after the Planning Department states it had sent an enforcement letter to Barnes.

A Planning Department document states that it was understood Barnes would stop renting the home, but Barnes said he told the department that it was unfair he was being singled out when many other homes in Routt County were advertised on the vacation rentals website and would continue to rent the home.

Planning Department Director Chad Phillips said a scan of the website a few months ago found about 45 properties in unincorporated Routt County that were advertising for short-term rentals.

Paul Hoffman during public comment took exception with what he said was Routt County’s method of only enforcing regulations when a complaint was made. Commissioner Doug Monger said the cost of enforcing regulations such as this through legal proceedings are prohibitive.

“Maybe we start taking things on,” Monger said, adding that he would welcome further discussion about advertising for illegal activities. Monger also said he would not support zoning changes that allowed short-term rentals in the Hahn’s Peak Historical Zone, where Barnes’ house sits.

Commissioner Tim Corrigan said there is potential for the county to be more aggressive in enforcing zoning regulations.

While stating that he understood the financial pressures Barnes was under, Commissioner Steve Ivancie said that was not an excuse to knowingly violate the rules.

Barnes and his attorney told county staff after the meeting that the advertisement would be taken down the same day. If Barnes ceases short-term rentals at the property, the need for further enforcement would abate.

If not, Ivancie said during the meeting, there will be court action.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

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Comments

John Fielding 1 year ago

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There must be good reasons why we would forbid the use of a home as a short term rather than long term residence. I think they should be revisited, and clearly outlined. In all likelihood, the problematic activities are themselves already prohibited. I for one see little difference between an advertised VRBO and the second home owner who comes out a half dozen times a year, and gives the use to his friends another dozen times a year (read unreported compensation). There is one next door to me, the owners are nice, polite South Carolinians, as are many of their guests. But the neighborhood is certainly not so quiet when they are in town, teens in the hot tub being most notable, but the adults carry on like they were, well, on vacation or something. But If you want to live in a world class resort area, you should have a tolerance for the sound of people having fun.

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Scott Wedel 1 year ago

The distinction between renting for income or loaning to friends is going to be harder and harder to determine. And the difference doesn't matter to the neighbors.

The sort of things that matter are what the residents are doing that causes problems for the neighbors.

I think zoning is way over used to attempt to solve noise or other nuisances before they occur. Very often zoning denies what could be perfectly fine on only the possibility that there could be issues.

I think it would be more effective and fairer if the zoning rules were more generous and maybe had limits on the number of people in a house for short term guests or rentals. But I would have increased penalties for things like excessive noise depending on how late it is. It seems silly that a noise violation at 3 am has the same penalty as one at 11 pm. The intent being that the sort of noisy events that bothers neighbors should soon enough have the sort of penalties that discourage the property owner from having guests or visitors that cause problems.

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