Following Breckenridge’s lead, Silverthorne ready to regulate short-term rentals

Silverthorne is shown in this photo taken on Angler Mountain. The town is a popular tourist destination, and elected officials are expected to vote Wednesday on a series of new regulations for the short-term rentals operating in town.
Eli Pace /

Silverthorne looks like it’s done treating short-term rentals like any other business. A draft ordinance proposes a new type of business license for the properties, along with some additional requirements, like requiring they come with “a responsible agent” to address complaints.

If anything sounds familiar here, it’s likely because Silverthorne’s efforts to better regulate the short-term rental industry read much like Breckenridge’s rules and regulations, which the town updated earlier this summer. Silverthorne Town Council began formal discussions about how the town might better manage the impacts of short-term rentals in July, though a countywide push to reign in the booming industry has been in the works for much longer.

Following July’s discussions, Silverthorne town staff issued a public survey and held open houses to help gauge public opinion. With that, council met twice again last month to continue hashing out the details. All that work is now showing up on Silverthorne’s agenda, with council expected to vote on the proposed changes Wednesday.

According to a memo to town council, Silverthorne officials are trying to strike a delicate balance between preserving individual property rights and protecting the interest of neighbors, guests and the overall community from the impacts of short-term rentals.

“I think there’s an acknowledgement that we’re in a resort community … and a lot of our guests are looking for that type of lodging,” Silverthorne town manager Ryan Hyland said of the discussions. “So there was an understanding that they are filling a need for our visitors, but how do we balance that with maintaining community and enforcing the codes?”

The proposed changes exempt hotels, motels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, and any rentals operating under long-term leases from the new rules. In short, short-term rentals are defined as lodging accommodations leased out for a term of less than 30 consecutive days.

One of Silverthorne’s proposed new rules would force each short-term rental to secure an individual business license, rather than allowing a person or company to hold one license for all the properties they manage.

Like Breckenridge already does, Silverthorne also aims to ensure compliance by requiring the rentals post their corresponding business license numbers in all their advertisements. This would help the town identify the owners who either fail or refuse to secure the proper licensing and remit sales and lodging taxes back to the town.

Like Breckenridge, Silverthorne is also looking to mandate short-term rentals have a designated “responsible agent,” or someone who can respond to “the issue that was subject of the complaint” with a one-hour time frame.

Per the proposed ordinance, the agent must be willing to address any issues arising from the property 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Complaints would be phoned into a centralized call center.

“All the towns and county are working together with a third party to set up a call center so that it will be easy for anyone that lives in or stays in Summit County to call one number and start the (complaint) process,” said Laura Kennedy, Silverthorne’s director of finance.

When Breckenridge passed its latest update to its rules for short-term rentals, which included similar language about a responsible agent addressing complaints, most of the criticism was directed at the one-hour window to address complaints. Unlike Breckenridge, though, Silverthorne is considering cutting that window in half between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., which is more closely in line with what Vail currently does. Still, that could change as Silverthorne Town Council takes up the proposal.

“Between first and second reading, (council) can continue to modify this,” Kennedy explained.

Silverthorne’s proposed ordinance would also allow for an alternate agent in the event the primary agent cannot be reached. The agent need not be the owner, but it would be the owner’s duty to keep this information up to date with the town.

Additionally, Silverthorne is also looking to establish a formal complaint-escalation process, along with a system for monitoring short-term rentals, enforcing violations and assessing penalties.

The town’s finance director would have the authority to revoke an owner’s license should the director determine a rental has racked up three or more formal complaints within a 12-month period. Owners may appeal any revocations, but if upheld, it could prevent that owner from obtaining another short-term rental license for the violating property for at least two years or until a change in ownership.

Beyond that, Silverthorne’s proposed ordinance speaks to public safety, inspections and a new fee structure that’s supposed to recoup the town’s cost for administering the program, among other things.

Council is expected to vote on the proposed changes on first reading Wednesday. If passed again on second reading, they would take effect in the next 30 days. The goal, however, is to have all short-term rentals in Silverthorne kicked over to the new business licenses by Jan. 1, Hyland said. He emphasized that any regulations approved by council are completely separate from any rules imposed by homeowner associations.

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