Despite restrictions, short-term rentals in Summit County continue to balloon

New regulations were put in place in December in an attempt to curb the number of licenses

Short-term rental properties in the Copper Mountain Resort village are pictured on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. The Summit Board of County Commissioners recently heard a presentation from its planning department about how new regulations have impacted its short-term rental program.
Ashley Low/For the Summit Daily News

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the ratio of short-term rental licenses issued in resort and neighborhood zones, 39% and 61%, respectively.

The Summit Board of County Commissioners recently met with its planning department to hear about the data collected since it passed new short-term rental regulations in December. The move was meant to curb the rate at which individuals were applying for licenses.

But during the May 3 meeting, commissioners learned that the new regulations “are having a limited, if any, impact on short-term rental growth” in its new neighborhood overlay zones, according to the presentation. These neighborhood zones are where, historically, the majority of the county’s workforce lives.

Senior planner Jessica Potter helped craft the county’s new regulations. She kicked off the presentation noting that the county has close to 4,600 licenses located in unincorporated Summit County, meaning outside all town limits.

From Jan. 1 to April 25, there have been 207 licenses approved. Of those licenses, 39% of them were issued in “resort zones,” or areas historically meant for visitors and tourists, and 61% were issued in neighborhood zones. Historically, these percentages are flip-flopped, Potter says, and there are typically more licenses approved in visitor areas.

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence noted that this trend makes sense since many of these resort zones already had vacation rentals.

“Our resort areas are close to being built out. There’s not a lot of room,” Lawrence said. “You also have to look at the totality. If most of the resorts already have licenses, of course we’re not going to get very many. We have more room in the neighborhood areas.”

Even still, the team was surprised to learn about the rate at which short-term rental applications were coming from neighborhood zones.

Potter said short-term rentals make up more than 10% of the overall housing stock in each of the county’s neighborhoods. The neighborhoods with the largest portions of short-term rentals include the Woodmoor (37%), Breckenridge Heights (30%), and the Peak 7 neighborhood (28%).

When looking at this data, both Lawrence and commissioner Tamara Pogue were worried that some vacation rentals were not accounted for.

“Being as familiar with Dillon Valley as I am, there are short-term rentals in Dillon Valley that are not on this map,” Pogue said about the presentation slides. “I am concerned about that.”

Summit County Assistant Manager Bentley Henderson said individuals who do not have licenses and are not compliant will not show up in the county’s system.

In her presentation, Potter shared insight regarding how many home sales result in a short-term rental license. In the latter half of 2020, about 29% of sales resulted in a license. In the latter half of 2021, that conversation rate rose to 39%.

This graphic shows some of the data Summit County's planning department has collected on its short-term rental program since the beginning of the year to April 25, 2022.
Jenna deJong/Summit Daily News

Only 10% of licenses are operated by a local, 50% are operated by someone living within the state and 40% are operated by individuals living out of state.

“I think the major point is that despite what we did this fall, the volume of licenses has not dropped at all,” Pogue said.

Potter said what has improved in the first four months of the year is how the county handles enforcement of its rules and regulations. When the county was working on drafting its new rules, Potter noted this was a point of contention for some locals.

“We heard so much during the public process when we were redoing these regulations that we weren’t necessarily holding up our end of the bargain in terms of enforcement process, and I will absolutely concede some truth to that,” Potter said. “With that, as well as having the time and resources to devote to enforcement, we have really upped our enforcement game.”

Potter noted that about 92% of all complaints are regarding vacation rentals in neighborhood zones, even though these only make up 39% of the county’s total number of licenses. Areas that typically receive the most complaints include the Peak 7 neighborhood, Wildernest and Woodmoor. About 48% of all complaints are related to noise and 32% are related to parking. Other complaints are usually about trash, not renting with an active license or being over occupancy.

Out of all of these complaints, Potter said she’s noticed a general trend.

“It’s few and far between that there’s ‘bad’ short-term rentals,” Potter said. “What we’re seeing is that it’s just really difficult to control guest behavior.”

Even so, both Lawrence and Pogue said they were concerned with the current trajectory of applications. Potter noted that her team expects to approve 800 licenses before the year’s end — 600 of which will are expected to be located within the neighborhood zone and 200 of which are expected to be based in the resort zone.

Pogue said because of this, she’d like to have additional conversations about the county’s short-term rental programs sooner rather than later, to which Lawrence agreed. Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard did not attend the meeting.


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