Summit County sees influx in applications prior to short-term rental moratorium

County staff and officials have difficulty outlining how to handle some special circumstances

At the Summit County Commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14, commissioners placed a moratorium on new short-term rental license applications. It took effect three days later and during that time, the county’s planning department received 364 new short-term license requests.
Joel Wexler/For the Summit Daily News

When Summit County approved a temporary short-term rental license moratorium on Sept. 14, the goal was to halt the number of applications so that its planning staff could have the bandwidth to examine other programs related to short-term rentals.

During a Summit Board of County Commissioners’ work session meeting on Sept. 28, Summit County Senior Planner Jessica Potter gave an update on how the moratorium was shaking out.

The moratorium officially took effect late on Friday, Sept. 17, just three days after the county commissioners approved the measure. In that short timeframe, Potter reported that staff had received 182 new short-term rental license requests. Since discussion of the moratorium was made public on Sept. 7, staff have received 364 new requests.

Under the moratorium, only new applications located in unincorporated areas are affected. Those that are located in exempt areas — such as Keystone Resort or Copper Mountain — are still eligible to apply and get a new license. This means that of the 364 requests, about 290 applications came in for areas considered nonexempt.

During her update, Potter said that immediately following the approval of the moratorium, her staff was receiving about 200 emails per day and about 100 phone calls, though now over a week later, she noted this outreach is down significantly.

“We received a massive amount of public inquiry, comments surrounding the moratorium. … It’s a pretty hot topic,” Potter said.

Potter also brought up the special exception requests received since the moratorium went into effect. When the staff and county commissioners were discussing who else should be exempt from the moratorium, they were all in agreement that some real estate sales should fall under this category. This includes real estate buyers who were under contract during the implementation of the moratorium. If these individuals can show they had an intent to short-term rent their new properties, staff members are directed to issue them a license.

As of Sept. 28, Potter said about nine of these requests had been granted. Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue followed up by acknowledging other circumstances that should be considered exempt. One such situation included a property that had reservations on the books but then transferred owners. These new owners would have had to apply and get a new license to honor these reservations, and Pogue suggested this be a circumstance that staff review.

Potter pointed out that, from her understanding of the special exemption process, these situations wouldn’t qualify for a license during the moratorium and more direction from the commissioners would be helpful if they thought otherwise.

Pogue agreed that the point of the moratorium was to take a pause on how many applications are granted, but said she wants to ensure that no additional burdens or hardships are being introduced in the meantime.

“I think the right question is, does waiting 12 weeks before being able to have their application processed create an unfair disadvantage to them in some way or a hardship?” she said. “That’s the conversation that we used. The point is not to have a lot of these processed during the moratorium. The point is to take a pause.”

Summit County Commissioner Eisabeth Lawrence said she sees both sides: In some instances, new owners might purchase a property and have no desire to honor pre-booked reservations. In other situations, buyers might be purchasing the property with the intent to use it as an investment and thus choose to honor the pre-booked reservations.

Potter said if these kinds of situations are allowed, then it would require staff to grant more licenses than what was the original intent of the moratorium.

Both the commissioners and staff decided to table the conversation until more data could be gathered. There has since been no decision on how staff should proceed with these kinds of situations.

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