New Detailed Vacation Home Ordinance Filled With Questions
It’s now Green Mountain Falls’ turn to grapple with a community and housing issue that has inflicted most mountain areas in Colorado: the invasion of short-term rental properties or vacation homes.
With the plethora of web sites for visitors and tourists, such and as Vrbo and Airbnb, and an increase in the use of these temporary lodging units, town leaders in most municipalities are slamming on the brakes regarding future applications. Concerns have mounted regarding conflicts with the neighborhood residents and taking away from the itinerary of housing for first-time buyers or local workers.
Moratoriums on STRs have already occurred in Cripple Creek and Woodland Park. Officials there want a time-out period to enable more defined regulations, prior to issuing any more licenses.
However, GMF leaders are treading cautiously in the STR waters, as vacation rentals are an important part of the town’s economy and GMF has prided itself on keeping an open-door policy towards tourists. Several months ago, at the advice of their attorney, GMF backed off from enacting a moratorium, contrary to the actions of their neighboring jurisdictions. Instead, the trustees hosted an open town hall forum that generated some lively and mixed comments on the issue.
Last week, the board outlined a new proposed, 11-page draft STR ordinance, which actually raised a slew of unanswered questions. Residents are asked to respond to this plan by Set. 9, with a formal public hearing slated for Sept. 20.
The new plan sets new guidelines and rules for operators and outlines the overall process in more detail. At last week’s meeting, some of the main issues identified by Town Manager Becky Frank and Mayor Todd Dixon deal with future rules pertaining to STR-unit parking, maximum occupancy for vacation properties, a “use it or lose it” policy for annual licenses, new fire mitigation and safety rules and questions about more transparency regarding STR properties.
But the proposal presents a hefty number of questions that need addressed, such as should STR licenses get okayed by the town manager or by the board of trustees.
And not all the rules would require tougher guidelines. Under one suggestion made by Frank, the door could be open for GMF to expand possibly on its overall 60-STR cap by making it easier for owner-occupied properties. This exemption in the total cap would apply to a person just renting out a portion of his/her property, but still residing at the property. In a public workshop, STRs were touted as properties that can provide an extra financial boost for homeowners trying to finance a mortgage, as well as offering extra revenue for the town. With the latest suggestion, owner-occupied properties that just rent out a portion of the home, would not count as part of the 60-STR property cap.
At last week’s meeting, the room was packed by many residents, who apparently have opinions on this issue.
But no public comment was taken on this issue last week, since the ordinance was just drafted shortly before the meeting. Instead, officials want residents to respond via email on the town’s website. The entire draft ordinance is clearly posted on the website.
A more formal public hearing on the issue is scheduled for Sept. 20.
Town leaders held a workshop, prior to last week’s meeting in which they outlined some of the main points they want emphasized with the new plan.
Let’s Get It Right
In a previous interview, Mayor Todd Dixon has stressed that the town currently has no rules pertaining to the operations of STR properties, defined as units rented out for 30 days or less. He said the only real limit deals with the 60-STR cap, which he doesn’t believe will get changed.
Comments have widely varied on the subject, with some STR operators encouraging more guidelines and saying this would help their management efforts. They are also worried about STR properties being done “under the table,” or without valid licenses. Other residents say the concerns of the neighbors need more emphasis and have expressed concerns over such matters as fire mitigation, noise, marijuana smoking and sanitation concerns. They have advised the town to consider STR rules established by other Colorado towns, such as Boulder.
But mention the Boulder name, and some STR operators become alarmed, and cite the historic importance of vacation homes in GMF. Other business owners urge caution, and oppose making a big issue out of something that really isn’t a problem in GMF.
“We will get this done when we get it done,” said the mayor, following last week’s meeting. He stressed the importance of adopting a STR policy that encounters much scrutiny and plenty of public comment. He said there is no rush in adopting a final plan.
For information on the new draft ordinance, visit the town’s website at www.greenmountainfalls.colorado.gov.