Frisco approves new short-term rental ordinance

A map pinging a number of short-term rentals currently available in Frisco.

After more than a year of research, community discussions and council workshops, Frisco Town Council members voted to approve the town’s new short-term rental ordinance on first reading at their regular meeting Tuesday evening.

The ordinance is meant to ensure compliance for all short-term rental owners, reduce negative neighborhood impacts, assure the safety of guests and help the town analyze the impacts of rentals in the area.

The ordinance was originally brought before the town council in November for a first reading, but was tabled until town staff could iron out issues surrounding the liability of rental owners for compliance and occupancy limits. The newest draft of the ordinance was widely praised by the council and passed unanimously, with the exception of Councilwoman Deborah Shaner who was absent from the meeting.

“This has been tough,” said Councilman Hunter Mortensen. “This is one of the most thoroughly discussed and community involved issues we’ve had. There are things in here that I disagree with and there are many that I agree with. And I think that’s the important part of our task, is representing everybody as best we can to fulfill the common good.”

The ordinance requires that property owners hold a separate license for each rental, effectively eliminating the town’s “umbrella license” standards in an effort to help the town and third-party compliance firms identify non-compliant properties.

Aside from the elimination of umbrella licenses, the application process outlined in the ordinance is fairly straightforward, requiring mostly basic information like the address, proof of lawful possession and a copy of a valid Colorado sales tax license for the rental activity. Additionally, applicants will have to pay a fee set by the finance director meant to reimburse the town for administrative fees, as well as provide a signed affidavit assuring compliance with life safety standards.

The ordinance also dives into restrictions and limitations of short-term rentals, providing some relief for individuals in town concerned with negative neighborhood impacts. The ordinance requires that owners provide a parking plan for the property, and bans renters from street parking. It also requires renters to adhere to the town code in regards to trash collection, noise, and banning camping and temporary structures on rental properties.

Occupancy limits were also added to this draft, restricting rental units to two people per bedroom plus an additional four people. Children ages 12 and under initially wouldn’t count toward occupancy numbers, though that section of the ordinance will be removed from the final draft based on council comments. However, the ordinance does allow for some flexibility in occupancy limits, allowing the town manager to adjust maximum occupancy following an inspection of the property.

The ordinance also requires rental owners to provide guests with relevant information such as the property’s address, contact information for the responsible agent and emergency services, the rental’s licensing number and the location of fire escapes and extinguishers. Owners must also provide information regarding the unit’s occupancy limits, parking locations, trash regulations, snow removal instructions and more.

Additionally, owners must conform to the town’s building, technical and safety codes, along with maintaining working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Under the new ordinance rental owners are only liable for compliance in regards to issues directly under their control, such as renter information notices, life safety standards and advertising.

The newest draft also makes some changes to the enforcement of violations. The ordinance stipulates that the town can inspect the property to check in on complaints of violations with permission of the owner or occupant. If the property is locked or entry is refused, the town will be required to provide an inspection warrant issued by a municipal court judge.

Similarly, licenses can only be suspended after the Frisco Municipal Court finds a party guilty of more than one violation within a year. Violations include operating while failing to comply with building, fire, health or safety codes, along with failing to file or pay taxes or the license fee.

Finally, the ordinance addresses the revocation of licenses, which is the sole discretion of the finance director for violations including multiple suspensions in a year or providing false information during the application process. Revocations last a year, though there is an appeals process outlined in the ordinance that includes a hearing with the town manager.

The ordinance will take effect five days after passing on second reading, likely sometime in early January, and the restrictions will kick in on May 1. While the town is confident it has put together a strong ordinance, staff is also aware that growing pains may be an inevitable part of the process.

“We have been well aware throughout this process that if this ordinance and the administration of such doesn’t meet the aforementioned goals we will certainly revisit and revise as necessary,” said Chad Most, Frisco’s revenue specialist. “This is an ongoing process. We certainly hope and strive for perfection at the beginning, but we do realize that updates may be necessary moving forward.”

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