Summit County government implements short-term rental moratorium in neighborhood zones

Over 112 community members tuned into the commissioners’ meeting via Zoom and over 40 showed up in person

Summit County Senior Planner Jessica Potter presents some of the latest data on Summit County's short-term rental license program at the Summit Board of County Commissioners regular meeting on Tuesday, May 24. Shortly after Potter gave her presentation, the commissioners voted to implement a short-term rental moratorium on licenses for its neighborhood zones effective immediately.
Jenna deJong/Summit Daily News

For the second time within a year, Summit County government has passed a short-term rental moratorium. The first three-month moratorium took effect last fall, and now this second nine-month moratorium, effective immediately, will put a pause on any licenses being issued within the county’s neighborhood zones.

The moratorium does have some exemptions, including people who are already under contract with a home and had planned to apply for a license. The county will also set up a process where community members can apply for a special exemption for other unique circumstances too.

The decision to implement a moratorium came as a surprise to many community members, especially those in the local property management and real estate industries, many of whom attended the Summit Board of County Commissioners’ work session and regular meetings on Tuesday, May 24. During the morning work session, the commissioners heard a presentation from Summit County Senior Planner Jessica Potter, who reiterated the current trajectory for short-term license applications so far this year.

A few weeks ago, Potter told the commissioners during a work session meeting on May 3 that the county’s new short-term rental program was not deterring the number of license applications, especially its Type 2 licenses. These particular licenses are for neighborhood zones — or areas that are traditionally occupied by locals such as Wildernest, Dillon Valley and Mesa Cortina. The new regulations passed in December capped the number of nights these units could be rented out at 135 per year.

The presentation earlier this month showed projections for the rest of the year, and the commissioners heard these numbers again during Tuesday’s work session meeting. Later that day, they held a vote on a nine-month moratorium for short-term rental licenses in neighborhood zones.

During the commissioners’ regular meeting that afternoon, up to 115 community members turned in virtually and another 40-50 community members attended in person. Potter explained why the county was voting on such a measure. That included the following: 60% of short-term rentals approved in 2022 have been in neighborhood zones; in the second half of 2021, 39% of home sales resulted in a short-term rental license, which is up from the second half of 2020; and 68% of all short-term rentals are owned by someone who lives outside of Summit County.

After Potter’s presentation, 23 speakers voiced their discontent — and, at times, anger — with the commissioners.

At the Summit County Commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14, commissioners placed a moratorium on new short-term rental license applications. This was the first time the commissioners placed a moratorium on short-term rentals, and now, less than a year later, they are making the same move.
Joel Wexler/For the Summit Daily News

At least four individuals called the vote a “knee-jerk reaction.” Many speakers expressed their surprise that the county was taking up a vote so suddenly. A couple more asked that the commissioners prolong their vote until after the summer season, which is typically when the local real estate market sees the most transactions out of the year.

“Give us a chance to earn a living,” said Karen Mapes, Breckenridge resident and real estate agent for Re/Max Properties of the Summit.

A couple others pointed out that the new regulations had just been imposed last December, and they questioned whether or not the county had enough reliable data to make their decision.

“It doesn’t appear that there’s been any valid data or research to support the direction that the county is heading with short-term rentals,” said Tess Scalise, a Dillon resident and real estate agent for Re/Max Properties of the Summit. “We don’t know conclusively that limiting the number of short-term rental licenses or the number of short-term rental opportunities will make a difference on workforce housing.”

Other comments at the meeting included concern how this moratorium might impact locals working in positions such as housekeepers, maintenance workers, landscapers and the like.

“I’d like to make a very specific request to not pass this moratorium today,” said Adam Parker, who lives in unincorporated Summit County and is the owner of Summit Luxury Estates. “I had no idea — I don’t think almost anybody had an idea — that this was even on the menu. I saw an email yesterday, scrambled to try to make it here only to find out when I got here that you’re actually going to vote on this today, and I’m like this can’t be real. How could something this significant not have been communicated with the community?”

At the end of the public comment period, some of the commissioners, as well as Potter, answered some of these concerns. Potter said that when the county implemented its three-month short-term rental moratorium last year, it received 172 license applications within a matter of days. The tight turnaround for this moratorium is to keep that from happening again.

Potter also addressed the concern that local jobs would take a hit if a moratorium was put in place. She noted that in total, there are between 9,000 and 10,000 licenses in the county that currently support local businesses.

Both Summit County Commissioners Josh Blanchard and Elisabeth Lawrence said the board was not “anti-STRs” and that they knew the county needed short-term rentals to support its tourist population. Even so, both expressed their desire to balance this industry’s needs with the needs of the rest of the community.

Finally, Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue addressed community concerns about the rapid pace of installing a moratorium. Pogue said when she takes walks near her home, there are numerous individuals usually parked along a nearby road who live from their cars and that many of these individuals work in the county. She pointed to them as a reason for moving quickly.

“I wonder what those folks would feel about today’s conversation,” Pogue said. “Would they urge us to rush? Would they say that this is a crisis? (What) would they say (about) the five month’s worth of data that showed us what we did last fall has not reduced the slow of the increase in short-term rental license applications? I don’t think they would ask us to wait. I think they would ask us to do whatever we can to help them.”

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