Rental debate gets stormy | SteamboatToday.com

Rental debate gets stormy

City Council determined to revise rules for vacation homes

Mike Lawrence

— No matter what happens, half the crowd will likely be angry when walking out of Centennial Hall on Tuesday night.

After nearly a year of public debate, work by city staff, legal research and even quasi-judicial hearings, the Steamboat Springs City Council appears poised to adopt final revisions to the city’s vacation home rental ordinance. The proposed revisions would require vacation rental operators to pay an application fee of $500 and an annual permit renewal fee of $50 per sleeping room. The revisions allow a maximum of four vehicles to park at a vacation rental overnight, plus vehicles in garages, but set no limit on the number of sleeping rooms in a rental. The revisions do set a limit of 16 overnight guests.

Those numbers drew mixed reviews at the City Council meeting last week.

Local attorney Bob Weiss, representing members of the Steamboat Springs Vacation Home Rental Alliance, said the alliance supports the parking, guest and sleeping room revisions.

“But we think it’s premature to talk about a renewal fee,” Weiss said.

Burgess Creek Road resident Bill Jameson, however, said the proposed revisions do not go nearly far enough to regulate vacation rentals.

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“You are essentially back where you were before this whole process started,” Jameson said to the City Council. “You haven’t solved anything. You haven’t taken care of the high-intensity uses that got you here.”

The ordinance regulates a tourism industry that involves more than 100 homes in Steamboat Springs. Supporters of the industry say vacation home rentals bring the city millions of dollars in annual tax revenue and operate with very few complaints, while opponents – primarily homeowners who live near vacation rentals – say the industry is poorly regulated and creates traffic and noise issues resulting from a constant carousel of out-of-town guests.

Vacation home rentals are homes in residential neighborhoods that are rented to short-term vacationers and sometimes used for private functions.

While the city first adopted a vacation home rental ordinance in 2001, the issue arose again in October 2006, when the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission addressed complaints about vacation rentals from homeowners on Ridge Road and Meadow Lane.

In February, the City Council enacted a temporary ban on new vacation home rental permits, to address citizens’ concerns and revise unclear sections of the original ordinance. In April, the City Council extended the ban to August 7.

Tuesday’s meeting is the council’s deadline for adopting revisions, in order to have the new ordinance in place before the permit ban expires.

City Council President Pro-tem Steve Ivancie said last week that vacation home rentals are a growing local industry.

“We’re just starting to see the beginning of this,” Ivancie said.

– To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com