Summit County planning department proposes tweaks to short-term rental license program
Some changes include new overlay districts, three different license types
When Summit County implemented its temporary short-term rental license moratorium last month, the goal was to free up bandwidth so that county staff could tweak its short-term rental program.
According to a memo recently drafted by Summit County Senior Planner Jessica Potter, the county’s current short-term rental program was first adopted in 2018. The memo states that there was no distinction made between resort areas and neighborhood areas, and that there’s currently a “one-size-fits-all” approach when granting licenses. The memo states that this program is well suited for resort areas, but it doesn’t take into account how these licenses are impacting areas traditionally occupied by locals.
During a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session meeting on Sept. 28, Potter and her team ran through the memo and outlined a new proposal that could change the county’s program. The idea is to launch the changes before the moratorium expires in December.
Potter noted that nothing has yet been decided. As she and her team continue to develop and identify possible changes, community members are encouraged to attend one of two town halls at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7, and Oct. 14 where they can learn more about the program and give feedback.
The tweaks Potter introduced to the commissioners can be lumped into two major categories: First, she suggested that the county have “overlay zones” where the county is divided into resort zones and neighborhood zones.
According to her memo, the resort zone would encompass Keystone, Copper Mountain, the unincorporated areas at the base of Peak 8 in Breckenridge and likely Tiger Run Resort. The defining feature of this zone is that these areas were always intended for short-term vacation occupancy in a resort context.
The neighborhood zone would encompass all other properties in unincorporated Summit County. This zone is meant for neighborhoods that were not developed as resort neighborhoods.
The second component of the proposed new program would qualify short-term rental licenses into three different types. The memo says that all of these license types would be allowed in resort zones but that some license types would be restricted in neighborhood zones.
The fist type, called License Type 1, would be for those who are renting their primary residences. Potter’s memo says this type of user might rent an entire home a few weeks a year or consistently offer a bedroom for rent. Potter said there wouldn’t be a cap on the number of nights this type of license could be rented since the assumption is that this is someone’s primary residence.
Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she was worried that most people could work around the system, thus fitting into this category. Potter said her team planned to reach out to other communities that have similar setups to determine how “abusable” this type of license could be. Keely Ambrose, Summit County deputy attorney, said the county would likely require multiple proofs of residence, such as tax forms, voter registration and a driver’s license, to ensure this was in fact someone’s primary residence.
Even then, Lawrence was concerned about this license type.
“I’m still uncomfortable with License Type 1 just because I simply can’t understand how not everyone is going to figure out how that would be their license type,” she said. “It seems to me (it’d be) pretty simple to convert those sorts of things to make it your license type, so I’d like to dig into that proposal a bit more.”
Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said she’d like to see Potter’s team gather more insight about this type of license, too.
“We do need to have more thoughtful information about the primary property owner and that definition,” Pogue said. “We’re assuming that there’s not going to be a lot of utilization or impacts to a neighborhood of that type one license, but if we’re not careful on how we define it, that might not be the case.”
Potter noted that from her understanding of the data, this type of license would account for 7% of the existing licenses already in the county’s program.
The second type of license, called License Type 2, is targeted at second-home owners who short-term rent their properties but also use it themselves. According to Potter’s memo, this type of license would likely have a cap on how many nights these units could be rented per year, which could start at 90 nights.
The memo also suggests that if a user with this license type can prove they long-term rent their unit for part of the year, it might be favorable to grant them an incentive such as a fee reduction for their license.
Pogue and Lawrence both noted that they’d like to see more insight on the number of nights these types of units are capped at before making anything official.
The last type of license, called License Type 3, would target investment properties. There would be no cap on the number of nights this rental could be used but Potter’s memo states that this type of rental would be “severely limited” in neighborhood zones. An unlimited amount of these types of licenses would be allowed in resort zones.
Again, Pogue said she was generally supportive of this type of license but that she wanted to see staff develop some kind of method for going about this process fairly.
“I would just caution us against using subjective words as we move throughout this process,” Pogue said. “I think everyone’s definition of severe might look a little different, so I’ll look forward to a methodology that we’d use to establish how many we allow and don’t allow. Let’s be sensitive to the already inflamed nature of this conversation, please.”
Both Pogue and Lawrence were supportive of the direction this program was headed, as was Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard. Blanchard noted that it’s likely a single person could have multiple license types and wanted staff to examine the impact of that as they continue developing this new structure.
Looking ahead, staff will continue to create a new program with all of this feedback in mind. The goal is to have some code amendments developed by Nov. 1 so that if and when these pass, the county’s web hosting platform has time to make any needed changes.
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