Top 5 stories on, week of Jan. 19 |

Top 5 stories on, week of Jan. 19

Pictured in his Frisco, Colo. home on Nov. 27, 2019, John Rienstra shows some of the memorabilia from when he played in the NFL for 7 seasons for the Steelers and Browns.
Liz Copan /

Editor’s note: Stories in this list received the most page views on for the past week.

1. State senator proposes classifying short-term rentals as commercial property, leading to a tax hike

A bill has been introduced in the state Senate that would change the designation of short-term rental units from residential to commercial, resulting in an increase in property taxes from 7% to 29% across the state, according to the Colorado Association of Realtors.

The bill defines a short-term rental property as a building that is used “predominantly as a place of residency by a person, a family, or families,” but is leased for short-term stays. For the purposes of this proposed tax law, a property qualifies as a short-term rental unit only if it is occupied by the owner for less than 30 days per year.

Breckenridge Town Council member Gary Gallagher said the council generally supports a bill like this that applies to short-term rental properties that are being run like a business rather than families who just want to rent out their property a few times per year. 

“For those of us who live in the mountain community, it will be a collapse in real estate prices because the people who own here … are heavily dependent on tourism for our sales tax dollars. If these homeowners are taxed 3.14 times more … they simply won’t rent, and then they’ll choose to sell,” said Mary Waldman, co-owner of Summit Mountain Rentals.

Taylor Sienkiewicz

2. Death of Breckenridge man ruled a homicide

The death of 29-year-old Brendan Rye, who died following a fight in Breckenridge late last year, has been ruled a homicide by strangulation.

An altercation between Rye and his roommate Miles Tovar apparently began after a night of drinking, according to the Summit County Coroner’s report of the incident. In the report, Tovar told officials he was standing outside the doorway of the master bedroom at the residence and that Rye was inside the bedroom when a physical altercation started.

Tovar continued to tell officials that he heard a “loud bang,” felt pain in his leg and noticed that it got wet. He said he had Rye in a headlock and that he heard another bang as the two wrestled to the ground. Tovar said he continued to hold Rye on the floor until he was no longer moving. Tovar maintained the strangulation of Rye was in self-defense.

No arrests have been made in the case, according to the Breckenridge Police Department. In an email exchange with the Summit Daily News, Breckenridge Chief Jim Baird said investigators still are waiting on lab analysis of some evidentiary items before things move forward.

Sawyer D’Argonne

3. A quiet warrior: The story of former NFL player, Frisco local John Rienstra

Seven-year NFL veteran John Michael Rienstra was marketed as “The Raging Rhino” when he was drafted as a left guard with the ninth overall pick in the 1986 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, just eight spots behind dual-sport phenom Bo Jackson. 

Nowadays, Rienstra carries seven seasons of pain on his shoulders, both of which have been replaced, while he works as a contractor, handyman and landscaper in Summit County. At the age of 56, he now has trouble remembering little things more and more, while reading and comprehending things like family finances gets more frustrating. Year after year, the problems seem to get worse.

As an offensive lineman, Rienstra was particularly susceptible to concussions. After CTE was discovered and research into the impact of concussions ramped up, studies found that offensive linemen experienced the most concussions during games, but reported them the least.

Rienstra said that one of the six neurologists he has consulted with after retiring from the league estimated he’s had as many as 300 concussions while playing football between age 8 and 30. While Rienstra believes he may have CTE himself, he won’t comment on a potential diagnosis while he goes through the settlement process with the NFL. 

Deepan Dutta

4. Aspen Skico: Former executive’s theft in selling skis was ‘methodical, unfathomable’

Former Aspen Skiing Co. executive Derek Johnson is a “calculating bully” who emotionally abused employees, reduced their wages and stunted their careers in a decade-and-a-half-long scheme to sell merchandise he stole from the company, which put the value at $6 million.

That’s according to several letters from Skico executives and employees ahead of the sentencing for 52-year-old Johnson, who pleaded guilty in November to one count of felony theft between $100,000 and $1 million.

Johnson was sentenced to six years in prison. Johnson and his wife will have to pay back $250,000 to Skico under terms of the plea deal. Johnson is unlikely to serve the entire six years in prison. With good behavior, he could be released in two-and-a-half to three years.

— Jason Auslander, The Aspen Times

5. Boulder man accused of stealing more than 70 pairs of skis

A Boulder man is accused of stealing more than 70 pairs of skis from Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and other mountains around the state.

Jason Takeshi Kawaguchi, 40, was arrested in June after deputies with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office allegedly discovered him stealing a pair of skis from A-Basin. An investigation into the incident, including a search of Kawaguchi’s home in which 74 pairs of skis were recovered, revealed a much bigger string of thefts throughout Summit and Boulder counties.

Kawaguchi is charged with felony theft. At the hearing Wednesday, the case was continued so that he could complete a mental health assessment. He’s scheduled to return to court March 5.

Sawyer D’Argonne

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