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Vacation rental issue returns to Steamboat

Opinions flare ahead of vacation home review Tuesday night

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."