Summit County’s draft of short-term rental regulations faces opposition from resort residents

The board of county commissioners considered draft short-term rental regulations in front of a packed crowd at the Frisco Day Lodge, Tuesday Oct. 23.
Deepan Dutta /

Summit County’s planning department unveiled its first draft of short-term rental regulations on unincorporated county properties during the regular board of county commissioners meeting on Tuesday. The draft has been in the works for over a year, and the rules are meant to start regulating the burgeoning industry.

County Commissioner Dan Gibbs said the purpose of the rules were to ensure health and safety of residents, maintain the residential character of neighborhoods and catch up with other resort communities that already have regulations, as well as level the playing field for all lodging entities.

County senior planner Kate Berg presented the draft regulations to the board and a packed room of local residents at the Frisco Day Lodge. The highlights of the proposed regulations include a permitting system with a fee of $150 per year, occupancy and parking limits, health and safety requirements, providing notice to guests about proper trash disposal and noise, requiring self-certified “Good Neighbor” agreement to not disrupt the character of residential neighborhoods and contracting a third party compliance company called STR Helper to ensure regulations are being followed.

If a permit is approved, short-term rental owners will be required to list the permit number in advertising, along with occupancy and parking limits. The draft regulations also add a process by which owners can apply for exceptions to the occupancy and parking limits, as well as a mechanism by which permits can be revoked for up to two years if a unit owner repeatedly violates the remit of the short-term rental permit.

Berg said the planning commission gathered a lot of feedback by direct contact from residents and at planning commission meetings. They then made a series of revisions to their original drafts to respond to the feedback.

Occupancy limits were one of the main complaints. Based on feedback considering the limit of two occupants per bedroom plus another two occupants as overly restrictive, there will also an option for occupants to be limited to one person per 300 square feet in addition to the two-plus-two formula, whichever has a higher limit. As far as parking, there needs to be a minimum of two parking spaces for each unit, with a maximum of five spaces. Again, these limits may receive exceptions through an appeal process.

Another change is removing the requirement for a “local” agent within a certain proximity to respond to unit issues, and instead requiring rental units have a “responsible” agent who can live outside the county, but still be able to respond to unit issues within 60 minutes, 24/7.

But by far the most pushback came from residents and lodging companies from the resort areas of Copper Mountain and Keystone. A long line of residents went to the podium to voice their opposition to the regulations, telling commissioners that the planning commission “needs to go back to the drawing board.”

Opponents said the restrictions make no sense for short-term rental regulations in resort areas, since they are meant for commercial lodging and because most units are already under restrictions and regulations from HOAs and property management companies that make the county’s regulations and annual $150 fee redundant. In an attempt to appease opponents from resort areas, Berg said that the planning department is considering whether to create new overlay districts for the resorts that would exempt them from some of the new county regulations.

One resident accused the county of “looking for problems to solve” when they didn’t exist, while others did not understand the need for regulations when they were self-managing rentals just fine. Several residents believed the process was being rushed and that the county needed to take more time and feedback before passing any regulations.

Summit Cove Vacation Lodging, a company that short-term rents many units in Keystone, brought a small army of its employees to oppose the regulations, with many expressing fear of a significant loss of revenue from the occupancy limits.

After three hours of public comments, planning staff and commissioners tried to clarify certain issues raised by residents. However, issues such as whether to create an overlay district and how to streamline regulations with existing regulations from HOAs and metro districts remained unresolved, and the commissioners voted to table the issue to review all the feedback, as well as let staff make more tweaks to the draft regulations for another review. The regulations will be considered again at the commissioners’ Nov. 13 meeting.

“I understand what people are saying, and there’s a lot of information to review here,” Gibbs said. “I’m ready to slow down a bit.”

However, Commissioner Thomas Davidson wanted all the regulation opponents in the room to understand that the county is not acting arbitrarily in contemplating regulations.

“You should know that commissioners and other elected officials in resort communities have been feeling a lot of pressure to enact short-term rental regulations,” Davidson said. “We are playing catch-up with resort communities across the nation. They’ve already done this, and they have not seen their economies cash or property values decline.”

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