Breckenridge passes short-term rental cap on 1st reading
Those who spoke at public comment overwhelmingly opposed the move
The Breckenridge Town Council voted unanimously on first reading to pass an ordinance capping the number of nonexempt short-term rental licenses at 2,200, following nearly five hours of public comment overwhelmingly against the move.
The town also received more than 450 emails for public comment, which were shared with Town Council. Council members said they were receptive and understanding of the concerns expressed by property owners and noted that this is just the first step, with exemptions and incentives to continue being discussed.
Exempt properties are ones that have phone, front desk and security service 24 hours a day. If the ordinance setting the cap passes on second reading, it would amend these rules to require that the front desk is on-site and that the same person cannot work front desk and security. It also would add a provision stating that a new property owner can request a temporary six-month license to accommodate existing reservations when a property sells.
Council has been adamant that the primary goal of the ordinance is to stop the conversion of long-term rentals to short-term rentals, but many who are directly involved in the short-term rental industry spoke during public comment, saying the cap won’t fix the workforce housing issue and only takes away the rights of property owners.
Summit Mountain Rentals owner Mary Waldman asked that the cap be raised to a higher number and said that while the council members have said they “have to do something,” they have also admitted this won’t lead to a large-scale conversion back to long-term rentals. She also said much of the data the decision is being made off of includes exempt properties, which would not be affected by the cap.
“As I watched the last Town Council meeting, it broke my heart to hear you throw out numbers as you toyed with the livelihood of my staff,” Waldman said. “The very locals you want to protect (laughed as if) it was a game bidding for a lower number.”
Jim Langland said the cap is government overreach, taking away private property rights with public policy, and encouraged council to send the matter to voters.
“Breckenridge is a destination town built for tourists, and they have come. And now the council is trying to limit lodging choices, giving an unfair advantage to hotels (and) timeshare companies. And the one-unit owner loses out,” Langland said. “Timeshares have hurt town and now are exempt. That’s wrong.”
Wendy Wolfe, a former Breckenridge council member, said maintaining a workforce in Breckenridge is of the utmost importance and that it isn’t always possible to continue building new units. She also noted that there is a workforce that exists to maintain short-term rentals, like property managers, housekeepers and maintenance.
“Workforce in this community has been the lifeblood of our community for all the years I’ve lived here and more than that,” Wolfe said. “… I encourage you to do what it takes to keep our workforce in this community.”
Devon O’Neil said more people in favor of the cap wanted to come to speak at the meeting but had to work. He said anyone going against council’s plans to cap short-term rentals is “inherently undermining the fragile brand that they’re selling.”
“It takes really nontraditional decisions sometimes to stand up for what makes somewhere special, and I’m grateful to you guys for doing that here,” O’Neil said to council. “… I’d much rather see my own property value go down, have our town regain a semblance of balance and not be so crowded all the time.”
Others who spoke during public comment said the policy was too broad, noting that some areas are specifically designed to cater to tourists. Many proposed designating some kind of vacationer or tourism zones and for those areas to be exempt.
Following the end of public and council comments, Mayor Eric Mamula said he wanted to apologize for the fact that council members laughed during the discussions at the last meeting, noting that they are only human and sometimes people laugh inappropriately. He said he and the council understand this is not a joking matter.
Mamula also apologized to anyone who thought last meeting’s discussions were a “bait and switch,” as the council has been having discussions about how to manage short-term rentals for a long time. He also said he was disheartened that so many people spoke in public comment to say that the town needs to do more to create workforce housing opportunities. He emphasized that the council had been working on those efforts for years.
“We spend a ton of your resources on housing, and from what I heard tonight, it sounded like we’ve done nothing,” Mamula said. “… We’ve done hard and desperate work for housing, and really it bums me out that people who own property in our community have zero idea on that.”
Council member Dennis Kuhn said the cap is intended to stabilize the current lack of balance among rental types in the community to allow for research and next steps.
“This isn’t a cap and we go away. This is a cap and we go to work,” Kuhn said.
Council member Jeffrey Bergeron said there are always people who think something changing in the town is going to kill it. He said anyone who thinks the current climate in the town is sustainable hasn’t been paying attention.
“The town is too crowded. We have too many people visiting, which would be all well and good if we had the staff to service those people,” Bergeron said. “But we’ve totally cheapened our product, the product of Breckenridge. We’re not providing the product as we used to, and that is because it’s just gotten too busy. A lot of that has to do with short-term housing.”
Mamula reiterated that council has been having public discussions about short-term rentals for a while and was intentional about submitting it not as an emergency ordinance or moratorium — as the county did Tuesday — to ensure folks would have enough time to get their ducks in order and get licenses.
Should the ordinance pass a second reading Sept. 28, it will go into effect 35 days later.
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