Summit County takes time in hammering out regulations for short-term rentals |

Summit County takes time in hammering out regulations for short-term rentals

A sign placed in front of a rental unit in Silverthorne, May 1. Summit County is on track to pass short-term rental regulations by September.
Hugh Carey /

A blue print for short-term rental regulations in unincorporated Summit County is starting to emerge, as planning officials on Tuesday provided an update to county commissioners. A tentative timeline for rule proposals and approval was also offered, with hope that regulations can be passed by September.

Speaking to the commissioners in front of a packed public gallery during the regular weekly work session, county planning director Don Reimer acknowledged that progress on drafting recommendations had been slow due to staffing shortages. However, the planning department has been busy researching short-term rental regulations in local towns to see what rules can be adopted for the county’s unincorporated areas.

Senior planner Kate Berg offered an overview of the short-term rental regulations in place or being proposed in the towns of Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne, Dillon and Vail. Common regulations include requiring the rentals be licensed with the town, that the owner or the owner’s agent be available within an hour of the rental property, having the owner’s name or rental license number appear on all advertising for a rental, as well as requiring rental owners to self-comply with code provisions such as occupancy limits, parking spaces and maintaining peace with neighbors.

Reimer said the county is looking to copy parts of short-term rentals regulation code from towns in order to maintain consistency.

“Any program needs to have a huge education effort.”Don ReimerCounty planning director

“Code development is one area where plagiarism is encouraged,” Reimer said. However, the commissioners agreed that a one-size-fits-all approach may not work with unincorporated areas, as regulations that work for a resort area like Keystone did not necessarily work with residential neighborhoods.

Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier was also concerned about the knowledge short-term renters have about local issues such as wildlife risks, and insisted that education be a component of the regulations. Reimer agreed.

“Any program needs to have a huge education effort,” Reimer said. “We’re thinking of making a series of 30- to 60-second videos to educate renters, and have information attached to the STR permit.”

When reviewing the different sets of short-term rental regulations, Berg said that Summit might want to emulate Vail’s regulations, which she said were very streamlined and easy to access through a web portal. Berg also suggested the county start with a simple skeleton regulatory scheme and build on it incrementally.

“It’s best to start really small,” Berg said. “We should get the initial regulatory framework in place, make sure it’s efficient and works well with permitting and collecting taxes. It will give us the opportunity to run the program for a little bit of time, see how it’s going, see where we’re having problems. As it evolves over time, we can adopt new regulations.”

Reimer said the planning department would continue to talk to residents, property managers and homeowners while coming up with recommendations for the commissioners. Tentatively, the timeline for rental regulations would see the planning department propose recommendations to the county commissioners in late June or July, with the commissioners having a meeting to draft up wording and get public input in August, before finally having a hearing to pass the regulations in September. However, Reimer cautioned that residents shouldn’t expect those regulations to go into effect immediately.

“In month one, the regulations would be adopted,” Reimer said. “In months two to three, we’d go about educating the public about the new regulations and reviewing applications. In month four, we might start enforcing the regulations.”

County manager Scott Vargo also wanted to make it clear that these regulations would only affect unincorporated parts of the county, and that the regulations do not amount to a ban like in the backcountry.

The commissioners indicated their approval of the progress and direction of the process to Reimer and Berg.

“I agree, we’re moving in right direction,” said Commissioner Dan Gibbs. “I want to make sure we get as much public input as possible and get enough information from focus groups from other entities. We shouldn’t rush this, we need to get it right.”

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