Blue River starts discussion about short-term rentals |

Blue River starts discussion about short-term rentals

Board of trustees seeks more data; town staff to perform cost-benefit analysis

The Town Hall & Municipal Court building is pictured Wednesday, Dec. 1, in Blue River.
Lindsey Toomer/Summit Daily News

The town of Blue River has been cautiously watching as conversations around short-term rentals continue throughout Summit County, but the town isn’t as concerned as some others are.

In its work session Tuesday, Nov. 30, Blue River’s Board of Trustees discussed the town’s current short-term rental license status in comparison to other towns and what kind of action it might take, if any.

Mayor Toby Babich, who also owns a vacation rental company and serves as president of the local Vacation Rental Management Association, said the goal for the work session was to determine whether immediate action is needed or the town should continue monitoring the situation.

“I think we’re mostly aligned in that we want to be very strategic and deliberate in our approach to vacation rentals and really not base our actions on what neighboring communities are doing, but base our actions on what’s best for the town of Blue River,” Babich said at the meeting. “We have a much different dynamic than our neighbors. We don’t really have the same type of issues in terms of workforce housing, labor shortages or really population size, so our solutions really need to reflect our unique character and our unique population.”

Babich said the town of about 880 was initially concerned about “panic license buying” with caps and moratoriums implemented in Breckenridge and Summit County, but the town hasn’t seen much of this.

Town Manager Michelle Eddy put together a report with the town’s latest short-term rental data. Eddy said that as of Nov. 30, the town had issued 165 licenses in 2021. Of the town’s 761 housing units, 350 are occupied full time and about 20% have short-term rental licenses.

Eddy also said 7% of the licenses are considered local, with a mailing address somewhere in the county. She said these licenses are typically for homeowners who rent out a bedroom in their home or rent their home when they are away.

Looking at new construction, Eddy said there have been 43 new projects in the town since 2016, 19% of which obtained a short-term rental license. In 2021, Blue River saw 57 home sales, 42% of which led to a short-term rental license application.

While the town hasn’t seen much of an increase in license applications since nearby municipalities started discussing their regulations, Eddy said there have been more calls from folks asking whether the town is subject to the county’s license restrictions.

Eddy also said of the 1,694 police calls the town received regarding short-term rentals in 2021, only 23 resulted in code violations.

Trustee Ted Pilling said he thinks it would be wise for the town to “err on the side of caution,” potentially considering a moratorium as it figures out the best course of action and watches how regulations unfold in the other municipalities.

“If we want Blue River to be the residential community of choice in Summit County, perhaps we may consider a moratorium for some period of time,” Pilling said.

Most other trustees were not in favor of a moratorium, saying the town’s situation is not dire. They did emphasize, however, that they don’t want to get to the point Breckenridge is at.

Trustee Dan Cleary said he would like the town to outline what a desirable number of short-term rentals would be. He said while the board feels OK at 20%, he wouldn’t want to get to the point where every other house is a short-term rental.

“I don’t want to find ourselves in a position where we need to then roll back to what is a desirable number,” Cleary said.

Babich agreed, saying he thinks it would be beneficial to look at a cost-benefit analysis of how much time and money short-term rentals cost the town versus how much money they bring in. He said he thinks this can help the town craft an appropriate number of short-term rentals it would want to see without pulling a random number out of the air.

Trustee Ken Robertson asked whether the town has the right to tell folks what they can and can’t do with their private property, and town attorney Bob Widner said there is no inherent right a property owner has to operate a short-term rental.

“Your ownership of your property is subject to reasonable regulation of government to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community,” Widner said. “If there is a harm or perceived harm associated with some activity on your property, government can regulate it. … A community can outright prohibit all short-term rentals if they find that short-term rentals provide or present some kind of harm to the community.”

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