Frisco signs off on final draft of short-term rental ordinance
The Frisco Town Council voted to pass short-term rental regulations at its regular meeting Tuesday evening, despite some disagreement within the group on the ordinance’s efficacy.
After more than a year of research, council workshops and public outreach, the town finally approved the ordinance on second reading, joining Dillon, Silverthorne, Breckenridge and Summit County as governments to pass similar measures in the last year. But unlike those other entities, which passed their respective code amendments unanimously, there was clear dissent within the council.
Of the six members present at the hearing — Councilwoman Melissa Sherburne was absent — both Deborah Shaner and Dan Fallon voiced concerns about the ordinance, but landed on the short end of the 4-2 vote.
The ordinance — tabbed as the town’s best effort to ensure compliance among all rental owners and to curb negative neighborhood impacts — is largely the same as the previous draft approved unanimously on first reading in December, with a few noteworthy changes to occupancy limits and liabilities as directed by council comments.
The licensing regulations outlined in the ordinance are relatively intuitive, addressing mostly common sense requirements in the application process such as names, addresses and application fees. Of note, the ordinance stipulates that rental owners can no longer hold umbrella licenses for more than one property, and requires a statement of maximum occupancy within the property. The document’s final draft pushed occupancy limits to two people per bedroom, plus an additional four people. It also includes the process for adjusting occupancy limits, based on a determination from the town manager.
The ordinance also addresses limitations for short-term owners and renters, diving into good neighbor policies surrounding common issues like trash collection, parking and noise where renters are liable for violations under the town’s code. The document goes on to outline the responsibilities of owners in regards to renter information notices, requiring written displays on vital information such as emergency and responsible agent contacts, the property’s license number, maximum occupancy limits, parking map, homeowners’ policies and the like.
The town left out any requirements for owners to assign a local agent for the property, opting instead for a responsible agent who must be available 24/7 as the initial point of contact for the rental properties. But the responsible agent’s duties are somewhat ill-defined, as noted by Councilman Fallon.
“I just don’t think it goes far enough in providing the mechanisms for the kind of resolutions that people are looking for, from the owner’s standpoint as well as the neighbor’s,” said Fallon.
He voiced concerns that there was nothing in the ordinance outlining the responsibilities for the agents when contacted about complaints or violations, and nothing to compel them to take any action in any set time frame.
“The people affected are left wanting,” he said.
The ordinance finally jumps into enforcement of violations and potential penalties for repeat offenders. Under the new rules, town officials are able to inspect rental properties in the interest of public safety, either through permission by the owner or occupant, or via a municipal court warrant.
Suspensions of licenses can happen under a number of circumstances, including being found guilty of multiple violations within a year, operating in violation of life safety standards and failing to pay license fees or taxes on the rental. Revocations may occur when a license has been suspended more than once within a year, if an owner knowingly operates the business with a suspended license or if a licensee provided false information during the application process. Suspensions last for up to 150 days, while revocations last for a year. The ordinance also outlines and appeals process, which could include hearings with the town manager or in municipal court.
Despite passing, the ordinance did face some resistance. Along with Fallon, Councilwoman Shaner, a previous critic of the ordinance who was absent when it passed on first reading, voted no. While praising the new occupancy limits in the draft, Shaner voiced concerns that the ordinance would create an undue burden on town staff, and wouldn’t be effective in policing bad neighbor issues.
“I’m just still not comfortable with it,” said Shaner.
Concerns were also raised by the public, though the second reading was scarcely attended by community members and residents. Joelle Mathiot, who owns a short-term rental in Frisco, shared her rental horror story in which she alleges a renter brought in a group of guests over her occupancy limit and refused to leave after their agreement was terminated by Airbnb. After failing to find relief through the town or the police department, Mathiot said she was forced to take the issue to court and called for the ordinance to include language to protect owners and allow law enforcement to remove violating guests, similar to hotels.
In the end, the town council felt that the ordinance was a step in the right direction for the town, despite some concerns, and voted to approve it. The ordinance will be effective beginning May 1.
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