After the industry explodes, Frisco considers short-term rental ordinance
October 1, 2018
As the short-term rental industry continues to grow in Summit County, the town of Frisco is looking to join the ever-growing list of mountain towns adding regulations to their town codes. Details surrounding a new short-term rental ordinance emerged at the Frisco Town Council meeting last week, outlining a number of goals and nuisances the town hopes to address with the measure.
The timing of the ordinance is no accident. Conversations surrounding short-term rentals have snowballed in recent years following the industry's emergence as a vital and significant portion of Frisco's tourist economy, rising to combat relative lack of lodging supply and growing demand over recent years. In 2015, short-term rentals made up about 32 percent of Frisco's lodging tax revenues. Today, that number is well over 40 percent and rising.
"I think certainly over the last four to five years the market has grown considerably," said Chad Most, Frisco's revenue specialist. "That doesn't necessarily mean that the number of short-term rentals available in Frisco has increased exponentially, but it certainly has become a much bigger part of our tourism based economy."
But how big a part it should be is the real question. It's unclear exactly how many short-term rental properties are actually in Frisco. According to Most, there are 252 active licenses in the town, 30 of which are umbrella licenses (multiple properties operating under a single license). But there are somewhere between 850-1,000 unique units that advertise as short-term rentals in Frisco, suggesting literally hundreds of property owners are actively non-compliant with current regulations.
This outlines the biggest goal of the ordinance, to try and create a more even playing field for not only more traditional lodging businesses like hotels and bed and breakfasts, but for short-term rental owners who are playing by the rules. The proposed ordinance would seek to address the issue in a couple of ways.
First, the town would eliminate the umbrella license provision, requiring each property to be separately licensed to give the town a more accurate number of how many short-term rentals are in the area. This would also assure that the town has accurate contact information and physical addresses for each short-term rental properties in their database.
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Second, the town plans to contract with STR Helper, a third-party short-term rental compliance-tracking firm, to scrub rental websites for non-compliant properties.
"The second piece of the puzzle is that once we require every uniquely advertised unit to have a license, we can contract with a third party compliance firm to help us identify the physical addresses and owners of all of these units so that we can identify units that are not in compliance, and we can communicate directly with those folks to get them into compliance," said Most.
In addition to measures emphasizing compliance, the ordinance would also tackle issues such as reducing nuisance complaints, ensuring guest safety, and collecting data to determine the affect of the short-term rental industry on the community in recent years and into the future.
As part of the town's contract with SRT Helper, the company will operate a hotline where residents can call in to voice complaints regarding noise, parking, trash and other common issues surrounding short-term rentals. Once a complaint is filed, SRT Helper will contact the property's owner to remedy the issue. While the hotline's obvious intent is to resolve complaints, it will also serve as a data collection mechanism for the town to determine how responsive property owners and management companies are to complaints, as well as how quickly they resolve issues. Additionally, the data will help Frisco shed some light on how much of the town's nuisance complaints stem from short-term rentals, as opposed to permanent or part-time residents. In turn, this data will provide the town with a means to address issues like trash and parking more directly in the town code if it becomes necessary.
Guest safety will also be a topic covered in the ordinance. According to Most, a growing concern is delayed response times for emergency services requested by short-term renters who are unfamiliar with their physical address and surrounding neighborhood. The ordinance would include requiring an informational packet for guests, including the physical address, emergency contact information, fire restrictions and even Summit County Alert signup information. The packets would also include good neighbor policies, such as information on parking, trash, recycling and quiet times in neighborhoods.
Finally, the ordinance would seek to determine the impact of the short-term rental market on Frisco, and to find out if there are any means to incentivize property owners to provide long-term rentals in lieu of short-term rentals.
"We simply don't know what the impact of a growing short-term rental market has been or will be on long-term affordable housing for Summit County employees," said Most. "I'm sure we all have some strong opinions about that, but we don't have the objective data to back it up. Is it a pie in the sky dream to think that there are even incentives available to get someone who is currently short-term renting their unit to rent it long term on an affordable basis here in town? It may very well be. But we haven't been able to have a conversation with the entirety of owners. In the end if we can have a conversation with the owners of these 850 or 1,000 units, maybe we will find there are incentives worth pursuing."
As of now, there is no set language in the ordinance. Most said that the town is moving very deliberately on the project, hoping to ingest as much public feedback as possible before moving forward. The town recently put out an online survey on their website to gather input on the ordinance and decided to extend the response deadline indefinitely. Up next is a town council work session on the ordinance, tentatively planned for Oct. 9, though it could be pushed to Oct. 23 depending on timing concerns. The ordinance could be presented for first reading in front of the town council as early as Nov. 13.
"I think the big thing is we're really trying to take this step-by-step," said Most. "We're taking a measured approach and trying to do this right. Balancing everyone's needs is really important to us. We want to be sure that we have all the information necessary for the council to make a decision based as much in fact as possible."