Opinion | Kim McGahey: Short-term rental cap proposal is shortsighted
Conservative Common Sense
The town of Breckenridge recently sent a letter to the community about short-term rentals, saying the “community has spoken loud and clear about the changing character in Breckenridge.”
Who has spoken? Are there community surveys, data and empirical research that show who exactly has spoken and in what way? Is there anything other than wishful thinking to support this claim? Most people I encounter in town are opposed to the proposal to limit short-term rentals and think it is unfair government overreach.
The letter says the quality of life in our community is in crisis. Who chose to characterize this as a crisis? This is reckless, emotionally charged rhetoric that inaccurately reflects the actual situation on the ground. The topic has been whipped into a frenzy by a small but vocal group of locals and artificially heightens the political narrative set forth by the town.
The letter says Breckenridge Town Council needs to revisit policies that are meant to “preserve the soul of Breckenridge.” The focus should not be on the presence of challenges, since those will always exist, but rather on how to optimally respond to those challenges without picking winners and losers and without implementing burdensome and unfair government regulations.
The letter says short-term rentals are valuable to our tourist economy but not in the current quantity, which creates numerous negative impacts on the community. The Town Council only highlights the negative side of resort town life. Our life is necessarily different than living in a suburb of Emerald City, where you never have travelers in the home next door or rentals mixed in with permanent residents.
Aiming to solve the perceived challenges that are simply a part of resort town living is backward. You isolate private real estate as if it is your duty to regulate its use. You have no authority or expertise to control how an owner uses their private property.
Homes are private residences, and it is the owner’s right to use that property as they see fit. To suggest that a home has a predetermined use identity for long-term housing based on the neighborhood it’s in — and that the owners are somehow bad people — is altogether beyond the scope of the town’s mission.
The letter says the Town Council’s decision to place a cap on short-term rentals was intended to “protect our quality of life and the fabric of our community.” The council has a fiduciary duty to represent the entire local population with well-thought-out policy decisions and not just represent a small, vocal portion of our population with this knee-jerk reaction.
The letter says it is not the Town Council’s intention to use the cap to convert short-term rentals to long-term rentals. The cap would almost certainly not result in that change. Owners of vacation properties buy them for personal use and to generate income. This cap would push away potential town revenue that could have been used for an actual solution to this problem. A mass conversion to long-term rentals will not occur. Property purchasers will simply go to other towns with fewer restrictions to buy resort real estate.
The letter says the cap fulfills an obligation to the community’s charge to “fiercely protect the character of Breckenridge.” What an audacious claim. How will this cap protect the town’s character? Where is any evidence this is true?
Doesn’t the character of Breckenridge also include strategic growth, economic prosperity for business owners, profitable real estate investment, protecting the constitutional freedoms of all residents, and bolstering and wisely allocating revenue? The town’s narrow view of the character of Breckenridge is stifling.
This massive and consequential proposal should not be a Town Council decision. It should be well vetted and thoroughly researched with detailed analytical data and then put on the ballot for a public vote. There are way too many unanswered questions to ram this through now.
Town Council is making a shortsighted proposal based on no research, no empirical data and no consideration for potentially disastrous unintended consequences. Please consider placing a hold on this cap proposal and do the required due diligence that will make for sound public policy and will truly protect the character of Breckenridge.
Kim McGahey’s column “Conservative Common Sense” publishes biweekly on Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. McGahey is a real estate broker, tea party activist and former Republican candidate. He has lived in Breckenridge since 1978. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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