Silverthorne eyes new regulations for short-term rentals |

Silverthorne eyes new regulations for short-term rentals

Silverthorne is shown on Monday in this photo taken on Angler Mountain. The town is a popular tourist destination, and its elected officials are now considering new regulations for the short-term vacation rentals operating in town.
Eli Pace /

As Silverthorne dives into the arduous task of regulating short-term rentals, local officials are a long way from uncharted water. Exactly which route they may take, however, has yet to be decided.

With the rapid growth in the short-term vacation rental industry, Silverthorne is intent on crafting new regulations that town staff hope will be effective and enforceable.

Many local governments have undertaken similar efforts, and for a Wednesday work session devoted to STRs in Silverthorne, town staff prepared an informational packet detailing for town council existing regulations in Minturn, Salida, Manitou Springs, Georgetown, the Estes Valley, Durango, Crested Butte, Frisco, Vail and Breckenridge.

Silverthorne officials are trying to take stakeholders into consideration such as the property owners who own the units and those who live next to them while they look to rein in the burgeoning industry.

The town doesn’t want to forget about the business owners managing Silverthorne’s STRs, nor do they want to create an uneven playing field for the businesses that have to compete against them. Neighborhood and homeowners associations and the people most affected by Summit County’s housing crunch were also brought up during conversations.

During the work session, some consensus emerged among council’s members and they framed the push to better regulate STRs as an effort that will come on two distinct fronts.

The first actions people are likely to see will be administrative in nature, concerning things like licensing, the fee structure and town code.

The bigger discussion, council said, is one its members don’t feel comfortable deciding without more community input. It could mean restrictive actions like limiting the areas eligible for STRs, how often they might be allowed to rent them out or capping the number of STRs allowed in specific neighborhoods or the town altogether.

While town council isn’t ready to make any decisions about caps, its members generally favored creating a separate business license in place of the standard business license that’s currently required of STRs and hiring an outside company to identify unlicensed businesses operating in town.

Town staff said they aren’t looking to make any profits with a new business license just for STRs, and corresponding fee structure, but they’d like to recoup the town’s administrative costs from managing STRs by accounting for things like monitoring and the additional time staff spends on STRs that’s uncommon to most local businesses.

“With business licensing, sales tax and lodging tax, there’s a lot of staff time involved with that,” said Laura Kennedy, Silverthorne’s director of finance and administrative services, to town council. “It isn’t your typical business that would have an accountant running the show.”

Council was also favorable for requiring that business license numbers be included in STR advertisements, like Breckenridge currently does. This helps identify properties that have not obtained proper licensing or the owners not remitting sales and lodging taxes back to the town.

Requiring that STRs have a local contact within a specified response time to address complaints was another topic of discussion. Many council members voiced that they could support some kind of complaint-escalation process that revokes the business licenses for STRs if there are repeated complaints.

Summit County is also working on regulations regarding STRs that would apply to properties in unincorporated areas of the county, and Silverthorne is keeping a keen eye on that conversation, too.

There were also questions during Wednesday’s work session about assessing STRs at the commercial tax rate. Silverthorne does not currently assess a property tax, but the one bed-and-breakfast in town pays an assessment rate in line with a mixed residential and commercial property, whereas STR properties are generally treated as residential entities.

Toward the end of the workshop, council asked the handful of people who attended the meeting about their interest in the topic. One man who lives in Silverthorne said STRs are destroying his neighborhood and, at least to him, they seem like commercial entities.

“I feel the sense of community is gone,” the man said as he talked about the housing crisis and a shortage of workers.

Speaking from a very different perspective, a woman who rents out a room in her home told council that if the regulations are too restrictive and encompass all STRs, including owner-occupied rentals, people like her could be forced to give up that piece of their income, even though she said she only rents out the room a few months out of the year and carefully screens all of her guests.

“We’re a smaller subset of the VRBO community,” the woman said, “but there are a few people out there that, you know, if it became so burdensome or the license was $750, we would probably consider not doing it.”

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