Breckenridge council candidates discuss short-term rentals, housing, crowding
Ten candidates are vying for three open seats on Breckenridge Town Council, and before voters cast their ballots April 5, candidates sat down to discuss their platforms in an open forum.
Participants included Slifer Smith & Frampton real estate broker Jason Libby; Summit Mountain Bike Alliance founder Mike Zobbe; self-employed programmer Lenny Weisberg; managing broker and Day Palazola Group Real Estate co-owner Tom Day; real estate broker and Summit County Open Space Advisory Council Vice Chair Todd Rankin; current Town Council member Carol Saade, a founding member of Mountain Dreamers and public affairs consultant; aerospace engineer Ally Doolin; Breckenridge Associates Real Estate partner and broker Nathan Moorefield; and Blue River Bistro and Bistro North owner and operator Jay Beckerman.
Do you agree with the council’s current strategy tackling short-term rentals? What would you do differently?
When asked about the current council’s direction toward managing the amount of short-term rentals such as Airbnbs and VRBOs in Breckenridge, candidates had varying answers about how they would approach the industry’s impact on the housing market.
Beckerman said he supports the direction of the current council, adding that they have made strides with the introduction of overlay districts. He added that by focusing on hosting guests where the infrastructure to support them exists, it can help accomplish the goal of having a smaller impact on the community.
Moorefield said he is currently not in favor of the council’s direction, but he does agree that something needs to be done. He said the council could work together to see if there are any more immediate solutions that don’t involve capping short-term rental licenses.
Doolin said she is also not in favor of how the council has handled short-term rentals, particularly in how it decides what neighborhoods can receive licenses. Instead of penalizing, she said, positive reinforcements such as incentivizing renting to local workers would be a better solution as well as involving resort leadership in solutions for workforce housing.
Incumbent Saade said the current way of approaching short-term rentals is the right way to go. She said that years of conversations including various stakeholders have resulted in the council’s decisions regarding these kinds of properties and that the town needs to stay adaptable as state leaders consider regulations in the housing industry.
Rankin said he supports the council’s decision to create a cap on short-term rentals. He said that preserving the town’s brand and being able to support both locals and a sustainable amount of visitors should be top priority. He added that worker shortages affect the visitor experience, so making sure that Breckenridge provides adequate support to workers should be a priority.
Day said he did not support the current way that Breckenridge’s government is navigating issues relating to housing and short-term rentals. He also said that large employers like Vail Resorts should be responsible for providing affordable housing to workers. He applauds the town for recent moves to create more units, but he does not believe there should be a cap on short-term rentals.
Weisberg also said he does not agree with how current council members have decided to deal with short-term rentals. While he agrees that something should be done to combat housing shortages for workers, he said he believes it is discriminatory to allow certain caps for some neighborhoods but not others. Like Doolin, he said property owners should be incentivized when renting to locals instead of preventing short-term rental owners from operating.
Zobbe said he supports the general direction of current actions by the council, adding that short-term rentals operated by people not living in the home where the Airbnb room is listed should be treated as commercial properties. He noted that a lot of his real estate clients operate short-term rentals, which has given him insight into both sides of the issue.
Libby said there is absolutely a housing crisis in Breckenridge and that the decisions the council made were difficult ones. He said there might be some different ways to move forward that may not involve caps, including incentivizing property owners for choosing to rent long-term and possibly working on different zoning ideas.
What should government’s role be in providing housing? What density and income would you target?
Doolin said she believes that larger employers like Vail Resorts and the school district should be held more accountable when it comes to providing affordable housing to their employees.
Beckerman said Breckenridge has done more than most municipalities when it comes to helping with the housing crisis and hopes that the trend continues.
Moorefield added that there is a gap in which residents get help with housing. Specifically, he said that lower-income residents receive help, but buyers with higher budgets are still struggling to find housing.
Saade said the government has a “huge role” in providing housing for residents. She said that while average median income requirements don’t offer a perfect scale, she believes it’s still important to provide for lower incomes in the county.
Rankin added that he would encourage the town to focus on land outside of the Upper Blue River basin since a large portion of county workers live outside of the basin, and she said that Breckenridge should continue to focus on demographics with lower incomes.
Day said Breckenridge is no exception to rising home prices and that employers should have more responsibility in creating housing for their workers.
Weisberg said that the town should use existing housing instead of building more, but he added that building complexes of small studios that locals could then sell for full value could help alleviate shortages while allowing locals to get full appreciation.
Zobbe said continuing current town programs like Lease to Locals and deed-restricting properties would be a great asset to help with housing for local workers.
Libby said that his goal is to keep locals local and programs that keep the workforce within Breckenridge would be his priority.
If you’re elected, how would you work with the Breckenridge Tourism Office to manage crowds?
Libby said improving the quality of life for locals should be a priority, and one way to do that could include continuing to promote free public transportation or incentivize carpooling.
Zobbe said that when approaching the topic of crowds and tourism, the question is not how many people an event can bring into town, but how it will benefit and engage locals.
Weisberg said that if Breckenridge does get too crowded, it could deter visitors from returning. He said a potential option could be to get rid of parking lots altogether to force visitors to take public transit.
Day said the tourism office has done a great job of publicizing the town to visitors, but because of larger crowds coming every year, it may be time to step back from promotion of the area.
Rankin said he would work with the tourism office to focus on marketing to destination visitors who stay overnight rather than day visitors, who do not tend to spend as much money. He would consider potentially moving popular events to midweek rather than weekends.
Saade said tourism in Breckenridge is a balancing act, and a solution to crowds could be to make sure visitors are educated about trail etiquette and other ways to make sure they have a positive impact during their visit.
Doolin said it’s crucial to present the image that the town wants to attract, so investing some funds that would have gone to tourism into local infrastructure and institutions like sanitation would benefit locals and also visitors.
Moorefield agreed that marketing to destination travelers would be more efficient in keeping events from causing overcrowding, and educating visitors about how to navigate town would help with management.
Beckerman said that currently, Breckenridge is operating at 70% marketing and 30% management, which should be adjusted as needed. He also said that focusing on out-of-state visitors would help with keeping traffic manageable.
Ballots are set to mail the week of March 14. All ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. April 5.
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