Breckenridge prepares for first reading of short-term rental regulations

Townhomes at the base of Peak 8 in Breckenridge are pictured on Nov, 20, 2020. Town Council has narrowed down short-term rental regulations and could see a first reading as soon as July 26, 2022.
Jason Connolly/Summit Daily News archive

Months of discussion and research could soon come to a close as Breckenridge Town Council and staff hammer out the final details of a short-term rental ordinance. 

In recent weeks, council members agreed to go by land use districts and guidelines instead of drawing new lines to distinguish tourist areas from traditional workforce neighborhoods. This way, it would be easier to tell what properties are in their designated district, they said. In total, there will be four zones: Resort, Zone 1, Zone 2 and Zone 3. 

For resort properties, or areas that provide additional amenities and operate more like a hotel rather than an Airbnb or VRBO, council members said that a much higher percentage of licenses is appropriate. On Tuesday, recommendations to staff ranged from 95% to 100%. Zone 2 is a zone where rental saturation is relatively high, but families and residents still live there. The area has a higher density, so its percentage rate is about 50%. For Zone 3, council and staff noted that they wanted to protect the character of these neighborhoods, and council members agreed that its percentage should remain low at 10% to 15%. 

“My greatest concern is that we have a balance, so the cap is most important to me,” council member Kelly Owens said. “The overlay is trying to get short-term rentals where they make sense and where they don’t exacerbate crowding issues and traffic.”

For overlay Zone 1, which will have the highest percentage of rentals besides resort-status ones, there was more debate. For these districts, staff decided that the “desired character and function” of the district has to include phrases related to providing a bed base next to ski lifts. However, for some districts that are in close proximity to lifts but do not necessarily have phrases pertaining to ski lifts in their character language, they get put in a zone with a lower rental saturation. 

For a portion of the meeting, council members focused on Land Use District 10, a district in Zone 3 west of Colorado Highway 9 along the foot of Peak 8 in the Tenmile Mountain Range. District 10’s character and function does not mention ski areas and recommended development be “a low-density, low-impact residential area.”

Other districts are facing a similar problem, like districts 25 and 30-5, and while the idea of moving them to Zone 2 status was brought up, some council members were not in favor of going against black-and-white guidelines. 

“How do we answer when we get all the phone calls, (asking) ‘But what about what about this property? And what about this property? And what about this property, and it’s just like the others you just (moved)?’” council member Dick Carleton said. “I don’t know how, in fairness, which is why I agree we stick with the (land use guidelines) because it’s fair and consistent.”

As for the saturation of Zone 1, council members Todd Rankin and Jay Beckerman said they would prefer 100% to ensure that homebuyers in the tourism areas had access to licenses and to limit panic-buying. Other council members said they would be more supportive of 85% short-term rentals in Zone 1. 

In previous meetings, council members discussed migrating licenses. When a license is lost in Zone 3, one would be available in Zone 1 or 2. On Tuesday, though, they decided to simplify it and not establish migration. 

Existing licenses will not be taken away or limited as a result of any ordinance. Percentages only affect incoming applications for licenses that were completed after the moratorium last fall. 

“There have been some outcries that we haven’t compromised at all with what’s going on. I will tell you that this overlay district is the compromise piece,” Mayor Eric Mamula said before the discussion. “We could leave this at the 2,200 cap and just be done with it. That has already been legislatively drafted. We decided that it would be in the town’s interest to go forward in this and have certain areas that are allowed greater flexibility and licensing. That’s what this is about. That 2,200 number is talked about, argued about by people from both sides of the fence. That’s where we are legislatively. The second piece is trying to come to some compromise with some of these areas that people feel necessarily should be. Staff has put a ton of time into this. The council has put a ton of time in this. I’ve met with a ton of people over the last couple of months about this. Everybody’s been working hard on this.”

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