Breck one step closer to solving short-term rental problems
BRECKENRIDGE – It’s been said there’s no way to legislate good behavior, but the town of Breckenridge is going to try.
Town council members are closer to finalizing the wording of an ordinance that would put some teeth into existing regulations that address the number of people who can live in a house, as well as problems with trash, noise and parking that sometimes occur in connection with short-term rental units.
The issue came to the council’s attention earlier this summer after Leon Fetzer, a year-round resident in Sunlight Estates at the south end of Breckenridge, complained about parking and noise problems at a neighbor’s house.
“Since this came up, I cannot tell you how many people have called me or come up to me and told me about problems some short-term rentals have been in some neighborhoods,” Mayor Sam Mamula said during a worksession Tuesday.
Town attorney Tim Berry has been drafting an ordinance to address the problems, and Breckenridge Police Chief Rick Holman has been working with second-homeowners and property management companies to see if the problems can’t be worked out without much town intervention.
Most details in the latest revision of the ordinance are already outlined in other sections of the town code, Berry noted. For example, the owner of a 5,000-square-foot home might advertise that the house can accommodate 22 people. But under the terms of the town’s building code, a house of that size could legally accommodate only 16 people – one for each 300 square feet.
The newest draft of the ordinance will address parking, trash, noise, occupancy, nuisances and local contacts.
On parking issues, the ordinance indicates no vehicles will be allowed on lawns, landscaped areas or on town streets. Additionally, trash must be kept in acceptable receptacles – trash cans – and noise must be kept to a “reasonable” level.
“The key word is “unreasonable noise,” Holman said. “It is very vague, but it’s all we have to go on. We’ve used it for years.”
Many second-homeowners are unaware that renters are causing problems in their homes.
To address that, the town wants second-homeowners who use their homes as short-term rentals to provide the town clerk with a phone number where they or another person responsible for the property can be reached at any time – day or night. That way, if a renter causes a problem at a home, the homeowner can be notified and the problem rectified.
Homeowners whose renters are found to be in violation of the ordinance can be subject to a 30-day suspension of their BOLT license (Business Occupation License Tax), but the homeowner can pay $100 in lieu of the suspension. A second violation in 12 months could result in a 60-day BOLT suspension or a $200 fine, and a third violation could result in a 90-day suspension or a $500 fine. A fourth violation could result in a suspension for which the time is set by the town clerk, or a revocation of the BOLT license.
To get property management companies to comply with the ordinance, homeowners could, through agreements, pass the fines on to property managers.
Town council members also said they’d like to incorporate into the planning process a means by which developers would be required to build sufficient parking if a home might ever been converted from a primary residence to a rental unit.
Mamula said he knows people are converting houses.
“A friend told me August was the best month for hot-tub sales, because spec homes are being converted into short-term rentals,” he said. “They aren’t selling, and as short-term rentals, they need to have hot tubs.”
Homeowners also will be encouraged to post rules in their houses, similar to what hotel managers do. Additionally, the council wants real estate agents to tell would-be-homeowners when they are moving into a neighborhood that has short-term rental units.
“You can’t sell a house to one person who thinks they’re moving into a peaceful, serene setting and sell the house next door to someone else and tell them they can pay the mortgage off by short-terming the house,” Mamula said. “You can’t have it both ways.”
The town also plans to eliminate a clause in the BOLT ordinance that excludes homeowners who rent their homes for fewer than 14 days from being required to obtain a BOLT license. Currently, there are only 150 BOLT licenses issued to short-term rental owners, and those in the industry say they know many second-homeowners don’t have the license.
A map presented at the worksession indicated which homes have BOLT licenses; those in the audience laughed, noting a conspicuous absence of BOLT-licensed homes in the upscale Highlands subdivision north of town.
A second reading of the ordinance will be held Oct. 8. Other issues the town plans to address regarding short-term rentals include condominiums and townhomes and units that are used for one-time, intensive events, such as weddings.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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