Breckenridge Town Council members say short-term rental bills bring balance, flexibility to housing
Before approving the first reading of two bills that would create tourism zones in Breckenridge, council members discussed their rationale as to why they unanimously approved the measures.
Council member Jay Beckerman, who was elected to the council earlier this year, said that the council bills are not a “silver bullet” to fix housing in Breckenridge, but instead they offer an option to prevent it from worsening. He noted that some long-term rentals have been converted to short-term, and the town can’t build fast enough to offset the conversions.
“I really do think that this ordinance has flex. We’re going to be able to look at this down the road and see the ramifications of where it happens, but at the same time, we have an average occupancy rate of 42% in this town,” he said. “By keeping our short-term licenses by actually allowing them to increase under this ordinance, we’re not looking to kill the tourist economy. We get it. (Breckenridge) is a resort community. With all the imperfections of it, I am firmly supportive of the ordinance as written.”
Council member Carol Saade said that these ordinances would make the original ordinance — which set the town’s short-term rental cap at 2,200 — stronger. Last fall, the council initiated the cap and a moratorium on licenses. This means that once the ordinances are approved, at least 200 licenses would be open for Zone 1, which Saade was pleased with.
“This is not a simple issue, and it’s not a simple solution,” Saade said. We’re going to have to continuously monitor this. This first step with zones, (land-use guidelines) are a tool, and they’re a defensible tool, and it does honor what the Tourism Overlay Task Force — which was a mix of industry, community members (and) staff — that’s what the direction they suggested to us.”
Todd Rankin, who was also elected to the council in April, agreed with Beckerman that this would not immediately solve the town’s housing issues, but would bring a more flexible option than what currently is in place. Rankin also thanked the town’s staff, who has provided data to council members throughout the process.
“I think that’s the path forward ultimately — making decisions, getting something out there, learning from it and making it better,” Rankin said.
Dick Carleton echoed other council members’ sentiment around the ordinance. He added that many community members had urged the council to get to a resolution soon since the moratorium was still in place. During public comments, some asked the council to table the decision to allow for even more discussion.
“It is about balance, and we can’t forget our workforce. Like (Beckerman) said, this isn’t the silver bullet that’s going to solve our workforce housing challenges,” he said. “We set a goal for the next five years to add 1,000 deed-restricted units. To this town, that’s 1,000 units that will be protected for our workforce in perpetuity. I feel like we’re really trying to do our part in bringing either new units or existing units and protecting them, and we’re well on our way to that number. It seems very realistic.”
Council member Kelly Owens added that short-term rentals bring a lot of good to Breckenridge, but the new ordinances would concentrate visitors in tourism zones that are more appropriate to house them.
“I was just really, really impressed with everybody who came (during public comment) and spoke and people who didn’t speak and came to listen to the several-hour-long conversation,” she said. “It really, honestly, reinforces what a great community this is and why we all want to stay here and be a part of it. I really am excited to move forward and keep trying to find a center ground with everybody in this room and everybody in this community.”
During public comment, several community members said that neighborhoods should be able to vote on whether their neighborhoods can have short-term rental regulations. Jeffrey Bergeron said that in the election earlier this year, several seats on the council were open and the majority of Breckenridge voted to elect candidates that were more strict on short-term rentals.
“Someone asked, ‘Put yourself in our shoes.’ I think we’re all in their shoes,” he said. “There’s seven of us — six of us live in Zone 3, and I think it will probably affect all our property values. Personally, I’ll take the hit for the good of the community. No one is losing their license, and I think it’ll be flexible enough.”
Mayor Eric Mamula, who lives in Zone 3, also thanked staff for their time collecting data and answering questions from the community. He said that he does not agree that restrictions in Zone Three are going to decimate property values and that regulations are going to instantly open up opportunities for plenty of homes.
“There’s a lot of people that we’ve been listening to,” Mamula said. “I don’t want you to think that you’re the only voice in the community that has spoken to us. There are a lot of people. We’ve all had tons of interactions either on the trails or a serious sit down with people.”
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