Breckenridge passes short-term rental cap following hostile 2nd reading

‘We don’t want to ruin the town:’ Council defends decision amid criticism from homeowners, property managers

Park Place Plaza on Four O'Clock Road in Breckenridge is pictured Sept. 5. Owners at the high-density condo complex are concerned the Breckenridge short-term rental license cap will impact property values.
Liz Copan/For the Summit Daily News

Breckenridge Town Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance capping nonexempt short-term rental licenses at 2,200 on second reading, with a few modifications since the first reading.

At the council’s Tuesday, Sept. 28, meeting, Mayor Eric Mamula emphasized that this is not the end of the town’s discussion on short-term rentals and more work on exemptions will come “fairly quickly.”

Mamula said reading some of the letters sent to council has been “painful” and added that he has had “relatively nasty” interactions with folks around town who are opposed to the cap. Mamula said he would not tolerate such behavior during the meeting.

Council then settled in to listen to about two hours of public comment from 43 attendees.

“This is not a ‘my side brought more people to the room so we win.’ We got a lot of letters like that,” Mamula said. “… We do appreciate everybody’s comments, but whoever brings the most to this kind of discussion doesn’t necessarily win the day.”

Council member Dick Carleton said he appreciates the passion and respect for differing opinions on both sides of the matter. He said the divisiveness of this issue has been ongoing and that he has only seen it get worse in his 40 years in Breckenridge.

“I think we all need to challenge each other and be better in Breckenridge and really show discretion in the tone and the nature in which we communicate and advocate for our passion and our side,” Carleton said. “I challenge myself. I challenge all of us.”

Changes made from first reading include several exemptions that came following the council’s special meeting Sept. 17.

The exemptions are mostly related to obtaining a new license when a property title is transferred, but some relate to ensuring folks can get a license if they are in the middle of a sale or building when the ordinance takes effect. Changes to what qualifies a property as exempt remain the same from first reading.

While some members of the public thanked the council for adding the exceptions, many said it’s still not enough, and many attendees encouraged council to table the matter until a more refined ordinance could be completed.

During public comment, Sherman Gregory said he is strongly against the cap, noting that short-term rentals have always been a part of the Breckenridge community. He also said he doesn’t understand what the purpose of the cap is and thinks the council should take more time to refine the ordinance.

“It seems kinda silly to me that you guys would be doing this ordinance just to repeal it and replace it in a couple of months,” Gregory said, referring to council plans to discuss a Tourism Overlay District. “The obvious solution is to do it right once rather than do it wrong and then have to fix it.”

More concerns were brought up regarding villainizing second-home owners, favoring timeshares and big business, taking away property rights and creating unintended consequences — but others spoke to thank the council for continuing to support the cap.

James Bradley, a full-time Breckenridge resident who lives in the Highlands, said that 10 years ago the home next door became a short-term rental and that more neighbors have been leaving ever since. He said he frequently calls the short-term rental complaint hotline regarding issues with parking, trash and noise but has seen little improvement.

“Those things have really bugged us a lot and continue to, so our peace and quiet is not the same as our other neighbors,” Bradley said. “… While this ordinance won’t affect that unless they sell it, which they may never, … it is an issue.”

Council reiterated that it intends to discuss possible implementation of a Tourism Overlay District based on language that already exists for each of the 50 Land Use Districts in town, something town staff is currently reviewing. Council will also discuss the administrative rules and regulations of managing the ordinance. Both discussions are planned for the second meeting in October, as the first meeting is slated for budget discussions.

Town staff also assured council that folks nearing the top of the short-term rental license waitlist will be given plenty of notice. Once they are notified they are next, they will have five business days to submit an application for a license before being removed from the list.

Council member Carol Saade said she thinks the ordinance is in a better place with the new exemptions and that she looks forward to the next steps of the process. After Saade said the ordinance isn’t prioritizing one industry over another, folks in the crowd jeered in disagreement, which led Mamula to ask people to leave if they were not willing to respectfully listen.

Council member Jeffrey Bergeron said members of the public questioning the morality and integrity of council was an embarrassment.

“Just in this one meeting alone, I’ve heard ‘liar,’ ‘hidden agenda,’ ‘an embarrassment,’ ‘heartless,’ ‘no feelings for anyone,’ ‘ruining the town’ — that’s just bullshit,” Bergeron said. “I don’t think you guys want to ruin the town. … Give all of us the benefit of the doubt that we don’t want to ruin the town.”

In response, some in the audience said council was taking away people’s livelihoods, and Bergeron made some harsh comments back to the crowd. He later apologized multiple times for his inappropriate comments.

Mamula also responded to accusations from the crowd, saying he is not OK with being accused of being in the pockets of big business.

“We do not — any of us — take bribes, take money, take gifts from anyone in this community and never have,” Mamula said. “I’ve been involved in public service in Breckenridge since ’94 … and never once done anything in this community that I didn’t truly believe in. … I hate to have to even say that, to defend my honor like that to a room full of people.

“This has been our lives now for months and months and months. It has caused dissension in our families, caused dissension with our friends, and we get that. But I truly believe that everybody up here does things because they feel it’s the right thing to do, and that’s the only reason — period.”

The ordinance will take effect Nov. 2.

At a glance

Exemptions to the license cap include the transfer of title:

• If the grantee is a member of the grantor’s family

• From a grantor to a trust established by the grantor

• From a grantor to a limited liability company or business entity, so long as the grantor has a controlling interest

• Between the same parties creating or terminating a joint tenancy

• Due to death, pursuant to a will, the law of descent and distribution or otherwise

• As ordered by a court under bankruptcy code or in equity receivership proceeding

• Without consideration for the purpose of confirming, correcting, modifying or supplementing a transfer previously recorded; making minor boundary adjustments; removing clouds of titles; or granting rights of way, easements or licenses

• Pursuant to any decree or order of a court of record quieting, determining, or vesting title, including a final order awarding title pursuant to a condemnation proceeding

• Between spouses or former spouses made pursuant to a separation agreement

• If required to obtain compliance with applicable law concerning like-kind exchanges

• Pursuant to a valid real estate contract that was fully signed prior to or on Sept. 28, 2021, if the transfer of title occurs within six months of the signing of the contract. From the day of closing, one would have 20 days to apply for a license.

Owners of a unit for which a building permit was issued and in effect on Sept. 14 may also obtain a license if the application is filed with the town no later than 20 days after a certificate of occupancy is issued.

The full descriptions of exemptions can be found on Pages 6 and 7 of the ordinance.

Assistant Town Manager Shannon Haynes said a majority of the exemptions are also included in the town’s real estate transfer tax ordinance.

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