Breckenridge passes first reading of short-term rental regulations

Hugh Henry, left, prepares to leap across the Blue River while he visits from St. Louis, Missouri, and Maisie Dolan sits on her father's lap as they visit from Phoenix, Arizona. The visitors are pictured Tuesday evening near Blue River Plaza in downtown Breckenridge around 5:45 p.m. as Breckenridge Town Council prepares for a public meeting regarding efforts to allow more rentals in the downtown area and limit ones in neighborhoods.
Andrew Maciejewski/Summit Daily News

After 10 months of research and discussion about how to handle short-term rentals in the town of Breckenridge, council members unanimously approved the first readings of two bills that creates a map that is intended to keep more short-term rental units in tourism areas rather than neighborhoods. 

Dozens of property owners and workers in the real estate and property management industries signed up to speak during public comment for the vote.

The first will create the mapped areas and the rules for rentals that correlate with the zones, including the tourism overlay district. Specifically, it will outline four areas that the council has discussed for the past several months: the tourism overlay, resort properties (formerly known as “exempt” properties), the downtown core and other areas such as residential neighborhoods. If the council had voted this down, the 2,200-license cap established in 2021 would still be in effect, but there would be no zones. 

Resort properties are short-term rentals or timeshares that more closely resemble how a hotel operates rather than an AirBnb or VRBO. Zone One will have the biggest cap and properties are closer to ski areas or downtown. According to the ordinance, there may not be more than 1,620 units in Zone One. Zone Two has a moderate cap of 130 and is closer to downtown than traditional neighborhoods, and Zone Three allows for the least amount compared to its size — 390 licenses. Current licenses are not going to be taken away. These would only affect future applications. 

Julie Koster, the executive director of Summit Alliance of Vacation Rental Managers, said that she would hope that Zone One would not have a cap and thanked the council for the time put into finding a potential solution. 

“This is the most tourism-oriented area of Breckenridge and the character of these areas is directly tied to tourism,” Koster told the council. “I’ve heard several of you say, over the last several months, that we should accommodate guests in areas defined for them based on the amenities and access to town services. Restricting Zone One to 90% may not feel like a big deal initially, given our historical lack of saturation in that area, but from the outside it looks more like Big Brother flexing his muscles than offering a concession.” 

The second ordinance is more generally applicable to all categories of business and occupational licensees, including short-term rental licenses. An accommodation unit licensee must not only apply for and receive a business and occupational license, but also must pay the associated tax. In addition, an accommodation unit licensee must further comply with the new regulations.

This graph shows the number of short-term rental bookings since 2017 in mountain communities across the state. Last year, Breckenridge totaled over 186,000 bookings, according to AirDNA, a data company that analyzes short-term rentals.
Eliza Noe/Summit Daily News

In September, the Breckenridge Town Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance capping the number of nonexempt short-term rental licenses at 2,200, following nearly five hours of public comment overwhelmingly against the move. The town also received more than 450 emails for public comment, which were shared with the Town Council. Currently, there are 79 units on the waitlist to receive a short-term rental license. In November, council passed a regulatory fee of $400 per studio/bedroom per year for short-term rentals in 2022. 

In 2022, the council spent weeks discussing recommendations from the town’s Tourism Overlay District Taskforce. At the beginning of the process, town staff and taskforce members created zones distinguished by whether or not they were traditional workforce neighborhoods. Over time, council members agreed that using land-use guidelines was an easier and more defendable choice. Land-use districts were then divided into zones based on whether or not their guidelines include language in relation to ski areas or tourism. 

This decision comes at a time when mountain communities across the state are looking to reduce or regulate short-term rentals in their neighborhoods. In Steamboat Springs, city council members voted to approve a map in June that creates tourism zones for short-term rentals and greatly restricts them in traditional neighborhood zones. Last week, regulations in Aspen went into effect, including occupancy limits, life safety requirements, noise and nuisance complaints, wildlife safety measures, and proper and timely tax remittances.

Earlier in the summer, the Summit County Board of Commissioners voted to create a moratorium on short-term rentals in unincorporated parts of the county and has since had public meetings to gauge how it should proceed. In recent weeks, the town of Silverthorne has also had work sessions to discuss how it wants to potentially regulate where short-term rentals should be in town. 

Kristen Crawford, town attorney, said that if the council in the future wants to move a district into a different zone for some reason, they can do that. 

“The land-use districting guidelines were kind of guiding the conversation, so that it was a reasonably based approach,” she said. “Now, the maps are the areas and if those lines want to be redrawn for some reason, that can happen anytime you want to.” 

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