Breckenridge Town Council considers exceptions to short-term rental occupancy limits for large properties
BRECKENRIDGE — At Breckenridge Town Council’s work session Tuesday, Jan. 14, members discussed an addition to an ordinance that sets occupancy limits at short-term rental units.
The ordinance, which was passed Sept. 24, allows two people per bedroom plus four additional people, a limit that has drawn complaints from some in the lodging community.
Town Finance Director Brian Waldes presented council with an option to create exceptions for larger short-term rental properties. Waldes said a formula used by other towns in Summit County would allow one person per 200 square feet.
Council members had mixed views on allowing for variances.
“I really feel short-term rentals are not helpful to this community,” council member Gary Gallagher said, noting that the short-term rental market has adversely impacted the long-term rental market. “I am not going to vote for it, will not create more ills for our community.”
Gallagher acknowledged the short term rental market is already in Summit County — that council has “let the genie out of the bottle” and can’t backtrack what has been done — but said he would not support any more leniency with short-term rentals.
“All you’re doing is adding more people to this community at critical times of the year when we’re already overflowing,” Gallagher said.
Council member Kelly Owens agreed and said the core issue is the effect on the housing crisis in Summit County.
“I think that to really be responsible and follow the vision of this town — which is to enhance the community and allowing people to work here, to live here — then sticking with the current occupancy limit is the more responsible choice,” Owens said.
Council member Dick Carleton was the first to voice support of exceptions for larger homes, saying he would suggest allowing higher occupancy for homes that are 4,000 or more square feet.
Carleton added that in order to grant occupancy exceptions to larger properties, it should be required that the property uses a local management company.
Council member Wendy Wolfe wasn’t sure about the 4,000 square foot designation.
“Help us find what is the right size in this community,” Wolfe said to Waldes.
Waldes also presented an option for limiting occupancy regardless of square feet. A maximum occupancy limit of 24 people was provided to council as an example.
Mayor Eric Mamula added that homes that had a larger occupancy limit prior to the ordinance should be able to keep that larger occupancy. However, he said that should not apply to properties that have had issues, such as numerous noise complaints. He also said there should not be exceptions for newly built properties.
Krista Rider, co-owner of Paragon Lodging, worked with the town along with the owners of Summit Mountain Rentals to present potential solutions to council.
“We’re super sensitive to this community and the impact, but these homes are not in that caliber for a long-term rental,” Rider said about large lodging properties. “These are more trophy homes that families get together at. We’re worried that that business is just going to go away.”
Rider said the rationale for an exception for larger houses is that comparing the number of bedrooms of a house is not apples to apples and gave the example of comparing a 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom home to a 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home.
“Our whole philosophy is not to pack people in,” Rider said. “We’re more in the mindset that if the property has more capacity, it could house more people. We have a two-bedroom home that is 3,000 square feet. It’s just with those larger home markets, they’re just different.”
Rider also pointed out that the homes are typically not causing the problems that neighbors have with short-term rentals. Paragon Lodging’s clientele is typically multigenerational families, family reunions and groups of a few families, according to Rider. She said the company has a strict noise ordinance, a maximum amount of cars guests can bring and requires a renter to be at least 25 years old.
“If they do decrease that occupancy, the way that the formula is as it stands, it would impact probably 14 to 15 homes that we represent in the town of Breckenridge,” Rider said. “What the worry is, is that those people are just going to go elsewhere. I’m hopeful that maybe we can get a good solution to this.”
Rider said the lodging representatives involved in working with council will bring back research about the issue, and she added that she is pleased council is willing to listen to the lodging community’s concerns.
Breckenridge Communications Director Haley Littleton said the issue will be brought back to council as a proposed ordinance at a future meeting.
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