Breckenridge passes new short-term lodging fee in split vote
Primary residents who rent 21 or fewer days will be exempt from the fee of $400 per bedroom
The entire Breckenridge short-term lodging community will have to pay $400 per bedroom to the town at the start of 2022 after Breckenridge Town Council voted 5-2 to pass its new regulatory fee at the Nov. 23 meeting.
After the first reading of the ordinance, council wanted feedback from its new tourism overlay task force on the fee amount as well as potential exemptions. Council members Dick Carleton and Kelly Owens, who sit on the task force, said the group was not supportive of the idea of exemptions.
“They really felt that if we’re going to do this, it should be the same for everyone,” Carleton said. “It seemed like there was consensus on that one.”
Several council members were thrown off by the feedback considering the exemption they wanted to include was for locals who rent out their primary residence 21 or fewer days per year. Owens said the task force’s point was that if the fee is meant to help create more workforce housing opportunities for the community, then as many people as possible should pay it.
“There was a significant feeling of, ‘If you’re going to be charging a fee … trying to raise money for different housing programs, then don’t do a bunch of exceptions. Just move forward with the fee,’” Owens said.
Another concern the task force brought up was enforcement, but this is something council said it wants to stop using as an excuse to not do something.
“A small town like this does not have the manpower to enforce a lot of the things we do,” Mayor Eric Mamula said. “It’s just by nature. We rely on the good will of the community that wants to be part of Breckenridge and makes Breckenridge what it is.”
Town Manager Rick Holman encouraged council that if they thought the exemption for primary residents was the right thing to do, then they should move in that direction. He said while it might be challenging to enforce, it is doable, and the town wants to be better about rental enforcement, adding a new position to do so.
“I might be an idealist, but I would like to get to a place where we can enforce it,” council member Erin Gigliello said. “I like that goal a lot to be able to enforce everything.”
Council decided to move forward with keeping an exemption for primary residents who rent for 21 or fewer days as it gives them an opportunity to make a bit of extra cash while they’re out of town. Should someone with the exemption rent their home for more than 21 days, their license would be revoked by the town, but they would have the option to reapply.
Todd Lebow, general manager of Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge at Breckenridge, said during public comment that while he appreciates the council’s swift action to find a solution to its housing problem, it is creating a win-lose scenario for the lodging community. He said a timeshare operation like his works on a break-even budget, and not having the time to plan for this fee will throw things off for the Mountain Valley Lodge next year.
“I believe passing this regulatory fee as written at $400 per bedroom is a win-lose,” Lebow said. “Town Council wins because you did something, except you lose some of us because we don’t believe you’re listening, and it will be a financial burden beyond what was anticipated.”
Lebow also reiterated points made by fellow lodging professionals that many in the community work to provide housing for their own employees, particularly Beaver Run Resort, which houses about one-third of its seasonal employees every winter. This is something Town Council said it would consider an exemption for but did not in its vote on second reading.
“A number of us already subsidize workforce housing as part of our survival skills,” Lebow said. “My association has been renting different housing since 2015 and subsidizing the cost in order to create affordable housing for some of our staff.”
Council members Dennis Kuhn and Carol Saade voted “no” again on second reading because they are nervous about the impact the fee will have on the lodging community with such a quick turnaround. Saade said if council was having this conversation in June and giving the community more time to prepare, she would be on board, but she said she is not comfortable doing so now without more of a heads up. Kuhn agreed and said he would have liked to see the fee start out even smaller to give folks more time to adjust.
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