Summit County commissioners agree on license caps for short-term rentals

The Summit County Courthouse in Breckenridge is pictured on the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. During Tuesday's Summit Board of County Commissioners work session, commissioners decided that Snake River and Ten Mile basin's short term rental licenses will be cut in half, while Upper Blue and Lower Blue were given more lenient percentages based on the nature of their neighborhoods.
Eiliana Wright/Summit Daily News

The Summit Board of County Commissioners has decided to cap short-term rental licenses in unincorporated Summit County, which means areas outside of town limits.

In October, commissioners received short-term rental regulation suggestions made by planning commissions from each of Summit County’s four basins — Ten Mile, Snake River, Upper Blue and Lower Blue. The responses suggested that there should be a cap on short-term rentals.

By the end of the October meeting, commissioners agreed there should be a cap on short-term rentals and that the cap should be applied per basin, but they could not reach a consensus on the percentages for the limits. 

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, after further discussion and deliberation, commissioners came to a consensus on loose ends regarding the short-term rental regulations. While the percentages have not been adopted yet, they were agreed upon for tentative adoption of future regulations.

Though basin-specific planning commissions proposed the first round of percentages in October, a countywide planning commission proposed a second round of percentages, which were presented Tuesday. The two sets of numbers were used in the decision making process. 

The basin planning commission suggested that Lower Blue should be capped between 19% to 11%. The countywide planning commission suggested 11%. This 11% would be achieved by specifically lowering the Wildernest neighborhood short-term rental licenses from 27% to 15%. 

For the Snake River, the basin planning commission suggested it should be capped between 8% and 0%. The countywide planning commission suggested 5%. 

Both the basin planning commission and the countywide planning commission agreed that Ten Mile should be capped at 6%.

They also agreed that Upper Blue should be capped at 12.5%. 

Going into the meeting, commissioners were presented with a side-by-side comparison of the numbers suggested by each planning commission. 

There were reservations from two commissioners, Josh Blanchard and Elisabeth Lawrence, since they thought some of the numbers were too low. Blanchard pointed out the Lower Blue percentage in particular, suggesting that a middle range be found between 11% and 19% instead of cutting the number down to 11%. 

Similarly, Lawrence was concerned about the drop from 27% of licenses at Wildernest to 15%. 

“Lower and Upper Blue are trickier because we clearly have some neighborhoods that have been hotly debated in terms of the percentage,” Commissioner Tamara Pogue said. 

Lawrence explained that neighborhoods like Wildernest and others in the Upper Blue basin were developed to better accommodate short-term rentals due to the density of the area and amenities like bus stops. 

In comparison, Lawrence said areas like Snake River and Dillon Valley are less oriented toward short-term rentals. Therefore, the decrease in licenses for those areas might not be as “drastic” as for neighborhoods in the Upper Blue. 

By the end of the meeting, commissioners agreed that a better methodology to cap licenses may not be feasible.

“I know that we talk a lot about really having methodologies so that it doesn’t appear arbitrary, and I appreciate that, but I don’t feel that any of this is arbitrary,” Blanchard said. “We have spent hours and hours and days and days in meetings, not to mention the amount of hours and work that everyone has put into it, the calls we’ve been on. … We’ve spent a lot of time on this.”

Ultimately, the commissioners proposed a 5% cap for the Snake River basin and a 6% cap for the Ten Mile basin. They proposed an 18% cap for Upper Blue instead of the suggested 12.5%, and they tentatively plan to cap Lower Blue at 15% instead of the suggested 11%. 

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