Scott Denniston: Short-term rentals
September 5, 2013
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.