Summit County commissioners mull allowing short-term rentals in backcountry |

Summit County commissioners mull allowing short-term rentals in backcountry

Short-term rentals in the backcountry was one of several planning issues brought up for a rules discussion Tuesday morning during the first Board of County Commissioners work session of the year. The backcountry is one of the last uncharted frontiers for the vacation rental industry, and the issue may prove to be controversial should a formal zoning amendment be submitted to the county.

Summit County planning director Don Reimer said that the public response to the proposal during a recent planning commission meeting was negative. “I think there has been enough feedback that short-term rentals [in the backcountry] are not appropriate,” he told commissioners. He also pointed out that an amendment allowing short-term rentals in the backcountry would affect very few properties. “There are very limited number of residences out there that can be used as short-term rentals,” he said, estimating that there are about 30 such properties in the backcountry.

Commissioners Dan Gibbs raised a concern about safety for backcountry rentals, pointing out how plows don’t reach many of these properties.

“I’d be interested to see what kind of emergency services can get to those locations in the winter time,” he said.

Gibbs also pointed out that Summit’s rescue resources are strained as it is, and helpless visitors needing help in the backcountry would compound that problem.

Reimer said there would be no reasonable way for emergency services to reach those properties in the event of an emergency. Many backcountry roads are not capable of carrying emergency vehicles like fire trucks, and many structures are not serviced by plowing. The safety of short-term renters on those properties could never be guaranteed.

The issue of regulating short-term rentals county-wide is still being evaluated. County Manager Scott Vargo said the topic would be on the agenda during the commissioners regular meeting on January 23.

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