Summit County adopts regulations for short-term rentals on unincorporated land
After over a year of waiting, with dozens of planning meetings, multiple commissioner hearings, and hundreds of public comments, Summit County has adopted regulations for short-term rentals on unincorporated land.
The county is following in the footsteps of Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon, incorporated towns that have already passed their own short-term rental regulations.
The county regulations are meant to put a check on an untamed industry created by web-based lodging apps such as AirBnB and VRBO. The popularity of the apps have led to local residents complaining about the impact vacationers have had on their neighborhood character, as well as safety concerns and potential building code violations. The county has also been concerned about short-term rental owners who may be avoiding paying the commercial property tax rate, as well as whether sales tax has been paid.
After several months of public meetings on the issue, during which time hundreds of residents showed up in person and offered comment, the county’s commissioners voted to adopt the final set of regulations on Tuesday morning.
Every individual short-term unit requires its own permit, and permitting will not begin until the county sets up the permitting apparatus by the end of February. Even though the regulations go into effect immediately, the county will not start enforcing them until June 30, with a permit application deadline of June 1.
Until then, owners have time to get into compliance with the current rules. Once owners receive a permit, every short-term rental ad they put online must include the permit number. The permits will need to be renewed annually, with current permits expiring Sept. 30, 2019. A third-party monitoring company, STR Helper, will check each listing for compliance and keep track of complaints.
Among the important regulations are occupancy limits for each short-term rental. Occupancy is limited to one person per 200 square feet, or by a defined limit per bedroom — whichever is greater. For homes and apartment buildings built to modern fire code — with common corridors of more than 44 inches in width and/or with sprinklers installed in hallways — the occupancy limit is two people plus four people per bedroom.
For older buildings with corridors of less than 44 inches and no sprinkler system, the limit is two plus two persons per bedroom. County planning director Don Reimer noted that the vast majority of buildings and homes in the county comply with the two plus four category.
For example, a studio apartment — which will count as a one-bedroom apartment — will allow two plus four, or six people, to stay in the room if the corridors meet the aforementioned fire safety standards.
In older drafts, a conditional use permit was required for large homes of 6,000 square feet or more. That area limit has been scrapped, and instead any short-term rental owner who wants to fit more than 20 occupants into a single rental must seek a conditional use permit from the county, even if they are allowed under the occupancy limits mentioned.
Parking will also be regulated. Each short-term rental must provide a minimum of one parking space, with a maximum of five outdoor spaces for guests. Furthermore, all listings must make sure to include the number of parking spaces in the ad.
A responsible agent must be assigned for each short-term rental and available to respond to concerns about code violations 24/7, 365 days a year. The agent must be able to respond to any concerns about specific code violations within an hour. Code violations include issues concerned to occupancy, parking, garbage, noise and other specific issues outlined in the full set of regulations, which the county said would be available to review online on the county government website by the end of the week.
The commissioners noted that the regulations can and will change over time, as they learn more about how they are implemented and executed in the real world.
“These are the best set of regulations we could have come up with, thanks to the many comments we received from the public,” Reimer said. “It was a great team effort, between the planning and building departments, the county attorney, the commissioners and the public. This is a great example of how the public process works.”
“It’s been a long wait and a lot of work, but it’s definitely been worth it,” Kate Berg, county senior planner, said.
“We are looking forward to these new regulations that will address life/safety, trash, parking and noise issues while leveling the playing field for sales tax and personal property tax compliance,” said county manager Scott Vargo.
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