Routt County Planning Commission: Master plan precludes nightly rentals outside commercial zones | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County Planning Commission: Master plan precludes nightly rentals outside commercial zones

— Members of the Routt County Planning Commission reached consensus Thursday night, taking the position that the current county master plan does not permit nightly rental of private residences outside of a handful of designated commercial centers.

The Board of County Commissioners asked the Planning Commission to study the status of nightly rentals in Routt County after conducting a pair of autumn work sessions. The meetings were devoted to the growing trend toward consumer-to-consumer vacation rentals through Web-based facilitators such as Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

During a second work session on the subject in October, County Commissioner Cari Hermacinski said, in her view, nightly rentals in private homes are residential activities, not commercial, and hence, are compatible with the master plan.

Planning Director Chad Phillips said the Board of Commissioners asked Planning Commission to answer two questions: 1. "Could the county proceed with approving nightly rentals without updating the master plan first?" and; 2. "Do you think the master plan is due for a revision, either to accommodate nightly rentals or for any other reasons?"

A large majority of the members of Planning Commission agreed the current master plan allows for short-term rentals, but only in commercial zone districts (Clark, for example) or alternatively, through the creation of a new sub-area plan, such as the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan.

"Nine of 10 planning commissioners present agreed," Phillips said Friday.

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Planning Commission members also agreed the current master plan does not need a major overhaul and that a few issues could be ironed out with minor tweaks to existing language.

The ball is back in the county commissioners’ court, but Phillips said no further public hearings have yet been scheduled.

Commissioner Brian Arel, the "tenth" planning commissioner, said Friday he attended the meeting expecting that a significant number of people would be present to speak in favor of nightly rentals. He said he entered the discussion prepared to consider if it might be appropriate to allow nightly rentals in growth areas, such as Steamboat Lake, or perhaps within the designated urban growth area that wraps around the western limits of Steamboat.

Arel, who has vacationed through Airbnb, said he ultimately decided there were too many unanswered questions about how such a policy would be allowed to move forward.

Phillips said that, in spite of public perception that his department does not enforce the prevailing ban on nightly rentals (anything shorter than a month), his staff consistently responds to citizen complaints when they are bought to his attention.

Without representatives of rural homeowners' associations pointing out code violation, including nightly rentals, he added, he lacks the staff to search them out.

Nightly rentals are allowed and regulated within the city of Steamboat Springs, and Phillips told county commissioners in September one of the advantages of the city system is that landlords acquire permits from the city and are known to planning department officials.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

In other business

The Routt County Planning Commission approved a plan Thursday night that will allow Double Y Properties, represented by Bob Haggerty, to consolidate 28 platted, but nonconforming, building lots in a pine forest near the dam at Steamboat Lake into three buildable, five-acre lots with an outlot.