Scott Denniston: Short-term rentals

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On Oct. 8, some people will present the Routt County commissioners with a request to end the regulation that protects permanent residents against short-term home rentals in the Hahn’s Peak Historical District.

On the surface, the idea may seem relatively benign to some, but I feel that a countywide discussion is necessary as a little deeper scrutiny of the proposal will quickly reveal a multitude of negative and unacceptable aspects affecting both Hahn’s Peak and the entire county. Many will sign lists or petitions considering only the income and ignoring several probably devastating outcomes.

The most obvious would be the altered nature of residential neighborhoods.

Would you want a party house next door housing new groups of strangers weekly? If allowed, this is where it can easily go. I’ve experienced this firsthand, and believe me, it’s a stress when you originally invested in a single-family residential subdivision. Remember, if this were allowed in Hahn’s Peak, the rest of the county likely would follow. Some real estate investors are drooling and slobbering all over themselves at the prospect.

Another important aspect to consider is our very limited resources. Permanent residents of Hahn’s Peak are acutely aware of our limited water situation while vacationers tend to act as if it flows out unlimited from somewhere inside the wall. This also applies to septic in the village as it already has been deemed barely adequate. Fire danger is another thing to consider. Vacationers and partiers will make mistakes that owners wouldn’t dream of — then we all pay.

Most proprietors of legal commercial businesses are scrutinized, licensed, highly regulated and periodically inspected for public safety. They also are required to carry expensive liability policies. What is in place to regulate the proposed mini-hotels? Nothing.

From a small child swallowing pills or poison left in the wrong place, to a drunk falling through an inadequate deck railing, to a less-than-scrupulous operator taking advantage of the public, anything can and will happen. Guess what? Homeowners insurance is only good if the house is being used as a single-family residence. So who would be liable? Partially the county for changing a good regulation and condoning this?

Some people look at short-term weekly or nightly rentals as an easy way to pay on a mortgage that they couldn’t otherwise afford. Others would buy up as many houses as they could and eventually alter the residential nature of many neighborhoods to the detriment of the rest of us in our community. I could go on about that, but there is a limit to words in this venue.

In my opinion, we are presently graced with three very intelligent, thoughtful and caring commissioners. That said, it still would be a good idea for residential property owners to pipe in on this critical issue. You wouldn’t want the only voices to be from people with dollar signs in their eyes ... would you? The commissioners’ hearing for this will be Oct. 8.

Scott Denniston

Hahn’s Peak

Comments

John Fielding 7 months, 1 week ago

I would like to examine the following points quoted from the article to help establish perspective.

"Most proprietors of legal commercial businesses are scrutinized, licensed, highly regulated and periodically inspected for public safety. They also are required to carry expensive liability policies. What is in place to regulate the proposed mini-hotels? Nothing.

From a small child swallowing pills or poison left in the wrong place, to a drunk falling through an inadequate deck railing, to a less-than-scrupulous operator taking advantage of the public, anything can and will happen. Guess what? Homeowners insurance is only good if the house is being used as a single-family residence. So who would be liable? Partially the county for changing a good regulation and condoning this?"

Is our objective in prohibiting rentals by owner to protect the users of those facilities?

Are we trying to protect the county from liability?

Is substantial regulation appropriate to allow short term rental of a residence?

Is it appropriate to enforce the same regulation on vacation home owners who give permission for the short term use of their property to friends, relatives, coworkers business associates etc for unknown compensations?

I suggest we not prohibit a person from renting or lending out their house, but rather react to dangers and disturbances if they actually happen. Making the owner responsible for the behaviors of his guests is a well established basis for keeping order in the community. It will not even require substantial regulation in advance nor licensing and scrutiny, only the enforcement of existing disturbing the peace ordinances and perhaps an extension of the "social host" responsibilities.

I mentioned in an earlier comment on this topic that there is a vacation home next door to me that is often lent out to non owners, usually resulting in additional noise in the neighborhood. In this same small block there are also 3 roommate houses occupied by those who choose to visit Steamboat for a whole season at a time. And there is a vacation home that is almost always empty, and for sale every other year. None of these conditions are conducive to a perfect environment to raise my family in a small town atmosphere.

Interestingly enough, most of the broken beer bottles in the streets and other truly offensive behaviors are from the single family residences when local kids are gathered on holidays or for parties. But that is also just an accepted part of the resort community influence I try to deal with in a positive manner. If it became too much to live with, there are many beautiful locations in Colorado that do not have resort community issues I can choose from.

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Scott Wedel 7 months, 1 week ago

So a homeowner can hold a wild party or let friends use their house for a wild party or rent long term to a bunch of wild partiers, but it only becomes a problems when the house is rented and there is a wild party?

I'd suggest the more effective approach is to address the specific issue of wild parties via the nuisance code instead of banning all nightly rentals.

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Mark Ruckman 7 months, 1 week ago

Renting homes as vacation places is widely done around the world. Hence popular websites such as VRBO.com

I can't imagine there isn't already a good blue print for managing real and recurring issues already documented / implemented and readily available for our county to consider.

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Judy Ludwig 7 months, 1 week ago

I live next door to a home that is used for short term rentals in town. There are no rules as to how often it can be rented and so my neighbors and I deal with new tenants almost every week during the winter and summer seasons. A constant influx of strangers who are in party and vacation mode negatively changes the rhythms of a quiet residential zoned neighborhood. Traffic and noise levels increase enormously. There should be limits on the number of days that can be rented or else what is the purpose of zoning? When does a home change from a residential property to a commercial enterprise and what protections (other than calling the police) are afforded to the neighboring homeowners to insure their lifestyles and home values won't be impacted? I would rather have a few returning college kids once in a while than a steady stream of unknown visitors.

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Scott Denniston 7 months, 1 week ago

Thanks Judy for your input. Have you checked to see if you are in one of the very limited sections where weekly and nightly rentals are allowed? The county really doesn't enforce without a complaint. I don't know much about the town. Anything under a month rental is illegal in most places in the county and really all it takes is a complaint. Weekly and nightly rentals are only allowed in a very limited "Commercial" zoning. I think that the commentators above really don't get it. People have their kids playing out in the yard and have a reasonable expectation to live in a single family residential zoning if that's where they bought or even rented. That's what zoning is all about. We don't want to live in transient neighborhoods. I think all you need to do is file a complaint. People need to stand up about this or their rights will not be enforced. The hardest thing to do is complain about your neighbor who you may like but are taking advantage and defecating on your rights. Hopefully some folks will get involved with this Hahn's Peak issue and prevent those rights from being taken away. We can stop it here. One of the commentators above mentioned that the county should have ways to address these concerns. They have. They're called "ZONING REGULATIONS".

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Judy Ludwig 7 months, 1 week ago

Several years ago the City of Steamboat Spring opted to allow nightly rentals in all neighborhoods. There are only a few exceptions. If a neighborhood has an active registered homeowners association with preexisting covenants that preclude rentals of less than 29 days, the homeowner association can pursue legal action (at considerable cost). If a homeowner who rents out on a nightly basis receives more than three police visits in a year, their license may or may not be revoked. Most of the annoyances in nightly rentals don't rise to the level of requiring police intervention, but are still not what neighbors expect to live with on a daily basis. When someone buys a house in a neighborhood zoned for residential use shouldn't the expectation of a relatively stable neighborhood population be part of the equation?

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Scott Wedel 7 months, 1 week ago

The idea of only enforcing when there is a complaint is the worst way for government to operate. It is inherently corrupt It allows a spiteful person to complain and disrupt what one person is doing very well. And it allows a powerful and connected person to completely violate all intent of the rules because no one dares complain about that person.

If county wants to regulate nightly rental housing then it has to do it consistently and stop it everywhere.

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Cresean Sterne 7 months, 1 week ago

I woud love to see a numbers count on nightly and short term rentals in Stmbt. I bet that number would shock alot of people. The number of management comanies now operating in steamboat should explain how big it has become and the energy costs for all of these has to be astronomical for a small town. At the moment it looks like there is no end to the building of more duplexes, town homes and 5 star lodging complexes. One would think that our electrical grid could not support this kind of growth cosidering that most new builds are supplying air conditioning in all the units because of demand for it now. Even though I am not for the continued growth of rental builds, it wouldnt be fair to say no to others who are looking to add theres to the rental fleet unless there HOA does not allow it.

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