Our view: Embracing vacation homes

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Steamboat Today editorial board — May to September 2014

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Tyler Goodman, community representative
  • John Merrill, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

We support the city of Steamboat Springs’ ongoing efforts to regulate and tax vacation rentals of homes, apartments and condominiums in an even-handed way that puts everyone on equal footing.

That’s in stark contrast to Routt County’s antiquated and haphazard method of pretending it doesn’t know that it has regulations that ban nightly rentals until someone complains. The county’s approach could be summed up as: “If your neighbor complains that you are operating a nightly vacation home rental, we’ll draft a letter threatening to take you to court. But if the homeowner a mile away is doing the same thing and we’re oblivious, that’s fine with us.”

The county’s recent affirmation of its stance that bans vacation rentals, even in neighborhoods where a majority of residents could theoretically prefer the freedom to do so, strikes us as being downright quaint.

The members of homeowners associations can gather at their annual homeowners association meetings and revisit their covenants if they choose to. If the county would just permit vacation rentals, collect the taxes and use a portion to enforce the new regulations, everyone might be better off.

If people weren’t free to rent their homes to vacationers from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Seaside, Oregon, it wouldn’t be possible to rent a beach home in America. The only option would be traditional hotel/motel rooms and stacked condos, when everyone wants to rent a cute beach bungalow.

As a practical matter, many Steamboat and Routt County residents already have learned that it can be the long-term tenants next door who create more of a disturbance than do people on vacation. There are long stretches of the calendar year when vacation homes are vacant and utterly peaceful.

There are only a handful of neighborhoods in unincorporated Routt County like historic Hahn’s Peak Village where the housing density is such that neighbors can actually disturb one another. Stagecoach would strike us as being ideal for vacation rentals that overlook a state park with a lake and a marina.

In other subdivisions, the neighbors are acres away. It’s safe to say that many rural homes in the county will be enjoyed this summer by vacationers gathering for family reunions, and no one will be the wiser. Renting a home is the best way to gather the extended clan for week full of big family meals.

Why aren’t we collecting lodging tax from them to help support emergency response in those lightly populated areas?

What is most striking to us is that county government seems to be unaware of the growing legions of people who are either supplementing their income or saving on vacation accommodations even in the most desirable of destinations by renting directly from one another on the Internet.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today reported this week that this summer’s vacation rental activity in Denver and Boulder through the Web booking page Airbnb is up by 300 percent. One could dismiss that as an urban phenomenon, but we know better.

If you haven’t visited Airbnb, it’s a cross between a social media and a transactional site. Some Airbnb landlords rent entire Italian villas, others rent a one bedroom within a single-family home, or a carriage house apartment. The latter is the modern equivalent of a boarding house. Remember those?

The social media aspect of this method of booking vacation lodgings is that travelers have the option of being hosted by outgoing locals — like Routt County locals, in their homes. It’s a different and rewarding way to travel.

The behavior of Airbnb tenants and landlords alike is held in check by the online review system on the property’s Web page — everyone involved desires a good rating.

Perhaps someday, the question of whether or not to allow vacation rentals of private homes in Routt County outside of Steamboat Springs will be put to a vote of the people. In the meantime, keep your heads down and be extra nice to your neighbors.

Comments

Scott Wedel 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I would regulate the number of people allowed in vacation homes based upon their size and maybe the neighborhood.

As a general rule, a family of 4 staying in a vacation home is awfully similar to a family staying there. But renting a home as having 6 or 8 bedrooms and a bunkroom so multiple families can stay there with a swarm of kids is not typical of neighborhoods. Likewise, a house promoted as a place to have your Spring Break party is not going to be wanted in residential neighborhoods.

Nice thing with AirBnB and such is that property owner can specify things like that and the guests have to agree to those conditions.

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Thomss Steele 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Just another example of how ass-backwards Routt County is. Folks it is 2014 not 1914.

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Joe Meglen 2 months, 3 weeks ago

"Perhaps someday, the question of whether or not to allow vacation rentals of private homes in Routt County outside of Steamboat Springs will be put to a vote of the people."

The key word is "private". Do property rights fit in anywhere here? Do mob decisions trump constitutional rights?

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mark hartless 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The most disturbing trend here (to me) is that of neighbors ratting out their fellow citizens and, more often than not, doing so because of some unrelated gripe they have with those people personally.

If this were not the case then that nosy neighbor would also know about and report the others in the hood that were doing the same thing.

It is part of our cultural shift towards using government at all levels as a club against our fellow citizens, often while smiling in their face.

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mark hartless 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Continuing:

It is part of our cultural shift towards using government at all levels as a club against our fellow citizens, often while smiling in their face....

The propensity to empower government by using it for petty gripes againts our neighbors ultimately empowers the government who would rule us ALL, while simultaneously weakining the masses... even those who feel a surge of power when they drop the dime on their neighbors

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mark hartless 2 months, 3 weeks ago

That's good, 'cause that's basically where we're headed...

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