County Considers LUC Amendment Defining Short-Term Rentals
by Gus Jarvis
Mar 22, 2012 | 2072 views | 6 6 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – After receiving direction from the San Miguel Board of County Commissioners earlier this month, county staff is in the early stages of drafting an amendment to the county’s Land Use Code that could further specify whether or not single family homes in the unincorporated areas of the county can be rented on a short-term basis.

According to county Planning Director Mike Rozycki, staff has received a number of calls recently from residents concerned that homeowners in the unincorporated areas of the county are offering homes for short-term rental, yet are not subject to paying a 2 percent lodging tax that homeowners offering short-term rentals within the town limits of Mountain Village and Telluride must pay.

The concern has led to a further discussion on the county’s policy and interpretation of the LUC was to whether or not short-term rentals in single-family homes are a specified use.

“Our response is that it has been staff policy and staff interpretation that short-term rentals of main residences or single-family residences or caretaker units is not allowed in any county zone districts,” Rozycki said.

The logic behind the county response is, according to a staff memo, that short-term rental of single-family dwelling units is akin to operating a hotel or bed-and-breakfast, as defined in the LUC, and is not listed or considered to be a use allowed by right in any of the county zone districts. The “obvious” gap in this logic, according to the memo, is that not all single-family dwellings that are can be rented on a short-term basis meet all of definitional components of what constitutes a hotel or a bed and breakfast in the LUC.

“The Land Use Code is silent on single-family dwellings, and doesn’t specify a time or term of renting,” Rozycki said. “At the staff level we looked at our policy and decided that it’s not clear enough to initiate enforcement actions. So we decided to go to the Board and explain the situation and see what they want to do.”

After a discussion at its March 7 meeting, the commissioners directed staff to begin drafting an amendment to the ordinance to clarify the language. As of Monday, Rozycki said staff was continuing to work on a proposal, but so far nothing has been drafted. Broadly speaking, Rozycki said an amendment could go in several directions. One, the amendment could add language clearly defining short-term rentals of single-family dwellings (30 days or less) as a prohibited use. Another option would be to clarify that short-term rental is an allowed use, but subject to sales and lodging taxes.

“As part of that, we have been doing some research with the Colorado Department of Revenue and it does appear that short-term rental of residences is subject to the collection of lodging tax, but we haven’t figured out the mechanism to do that yet,” Rozycki said. “We are still talking with the State. Staff hasn’t drafted anything yet, and we are doing more research.”

While no proposed amendments have yet been drafted yet for approval, concerns have been raised about whether prohibiting short-term rentals constitutes rent control, as it relates to the Colorado Supreme Court decision in Lot Thirty-Four Venture, L.L.C. v. Town of Telluride, also known as “The Telluride Case” of 2000. Some would argue that prohibiting short-term rentals is a form of rent control, while others would argue that prohibiting the use does not control the price of the rental, but rather defines short-term rental as an unallowed use.

Rozycki said whether or not “The Telluride Case” bears discussion regarding a possible amendment remains to be seen, and that it will most likely be discussed in a public hearing process.

If and when a proposed LUC amendment is drafted, it must go through a two-step approval process with public hearings at both the San Miguel Planning Commission level and the Board of County Commissioner level. While no public hearings have been scheduled, county Planning Director Mike Rozycki said the public approval process could begin in mid-June. or @gusgusj
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April 29, 2012
Sorry I am late to the game here but I hope it is worth commenting anyway...

My father designed and built our family home in the ski ranches in 1978 after living in Telluride for 6 years. Sadly my dad died half way through completing our home. Our mother was left to support the children and pay the mortgage. Turns out in T-ride this can be a challenge. As a result in 1979 we had to move to Boulder so mom could get an education. Because the house is so important to our family history we have rented it over the years in hopes we could one day return to the family homestead. About 10 years ago we transitioned to short term rentals so that our family could use the property several time a year, I will be there for 4-6 weeks this winter. Without our property rental income we could not keep our house as we are not part of that rich jet setting vacation home crowd. Over the more than 30 years renting our home, like Bill, we have never had an incident with renters. In fact we have had more garbage troubles with bears than renters...

@Bill and David, thank you for raising awareness of this issue, it means much to our family and shows there are still some of the old guard left in t-ride!

@PrettyPlease - it is sad that you paint all of the people who would be impacted by this law with the greedy and/or lazy brush as that and any generalization will be incorrect. I would hope you would rather ask how you can address your issue with your neighbor without causing folks like Bill and I undue harm. I find it equally divisive suggesting David Highland's responses equate to turning all residential neighborhoods into hotels. What % of homes in unincorporated San Miguel County are short term rentals? Turns out it is a very small %, less than 5%. so if I have to give up our home, one of my last remaining ties to my father, because you and your neighbor cannot come to a resolution then Telluride is no longer the town I grew up in where locals helped each other live the dream, and it was that growing up there, a dream! Note, if I can help you in anyway resolve your issue with your neighbors please ask, I will gladly put in time as needed to help resolve. Please post the address of the property in question and I will be happy to talk with the owner.
March 27, 2012
Right on David, You sound like a good neighbor. Ive been here 35 years and have thought Ski Ranches would be used in the manner you speak of-Ski ranches -vacation home. I wasn't aware you'd gone through the battle already.

I have a bad neighbor with high occupancy -no business license and no lodging tax collected and an ad on VRBO. Not a good neighbor with party time spilling over into the residential neighborhood. So we are talking about enforcement rather than zoning-I dont want to be the enforcer calling the cops at 3:00am about noise.The last group left piles of garbage on the porch for the owner-I guess not everyone is capable of being a hotelier !
March 26, 2012
PS, I pay commercial tax,residential tax and sales tax to support deed restricted housing so people can live and work here-not for speculators to make a PROFIT off tax subsidized housing .
March 26, 2012
Thanks to "prettyplease" for the comment responding to mine. Note that my reply here is not just to the "P.S." posted by "prettyplease," but to the main body of the reply by "pretty please."

First, I have had a business license here, for many years. This money goes largely to marketing Telluride, including the website at, formerly Telluride Visitor Svcs.

Second, this important issue concerning vacation rentals in private homes was fully litigated between me and San Miguel County, years ago. My rental cottage, still in operation today as a weekly vacation rental, is on a quiet cul de sac in the Ski Ranches, and has been continuously in use this way, without incident, since 1979.

The cottage, over these many years, has brought in many Telluride visitors - mostly couples and small families - who gladly spend money in town and in MV in restaurants, ski shops, clothing stores, and buy lift tix, etc. We also send them to local hotels for spa services, pools, restaurants, etc., so there is this indirect benefit to the hotels, in addition to the obvious benefits to every merchant and restaurant in Town or in the MV. Many of our guests have never been here before, and are trying Telluride for the first time, with us.

There are millions of baby boomers in the U.S. today using, and, and other similar sites, who choose not to stay, at least not every time, in hotels. These people are "doing Telluride like a local," and not a tourist -- at least for a week or two. That's the idea.

My neighbors on both sides of the rental cottage on my cul-de-sac filed sworn affidavits in court, and testified on my behalf, stating that in all these years, there has never been the slightest problem arising from my vacation rentals. That's how it should be, and the property has been well managed to ensure exactly that result.

I too would be deeply concerned with the sort of impacts you describe. I'm with you. Never happened on my watch, as my neighbors have attested under oath. The parties, too many cars, dog problems, etc. that you describe, could all happen just as easily with long term renters, or even owners.

So let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. We have plenty of laws on the books in San Miguel County, and in our two towns, limiting impacts and empowering law enforcement to deal with these issues as they arise -- IF they arise. Most of us are also responsible further for ensuring that our guests -- paid or not -- are in full compliance with HOA rules and regs.

Other counties, such as La Plata County in Durango, arrange for homeowners to collect and remit a lodging tax to the State of Colorado, which then sends the county back its proper share. We can and should be doing exactly the same thing here. And we should strongly consider using this new lodging tax to start -- for the first time -- an affordable housing fund at San Miguel County. Imagine that!

None of us is trying to avoid collecting and remitting a lodging tax, which would benefit residents throughout our community. We're all for it. It's been San Miguel County objecting to this, all these years, and not us. And its time for a change.

Thanks for posting your reply. I was fascinated, reading it.

David Highland
March 25, 2012
Thanks to Gus Jarvis for this excellent article!

County staff "policy" and County staff "intepretation" does NOT outweigh liberty and property rights guaranteed by state law -- including, but not limited to, the state rent control statute -- and, in a larger sense, by the U.S. Constitution, under the "takings" clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Planning Director Mike Rozycki is correct when he states that our Land Use Code (LUC) is silent on the issue of short-term vacation rentals in private homes.

Let's keep it that way, and "push back" as local citizens against this sort of overreaching and overregulating by our local governments here in Telluride. San Miguel County officials must not be permitted -- for the first time in the history of Telluride -- to prohibit vacation rentals in private homes.

Stand up for your rights! Just say "no" to the County Commissioners and their senior staff who have always favored more and more restrictions on your property rights.

In a resort town like ours, it's ludicrous in the extreme, and short-sighted, and foolish, for local governments; i.e., the Town of Telluride or San MIguel County, to try to prevent Telluride visitors from renting private homes here for their vacations.

David Highland
March 26, 2012
Yes David lets make all our residential neighbor hoods into hotels-forget the planning and zoning. Undermining the commercial tax base is a great idea-I will continue to pay triple the residential tax rate on my commercial property while mini hotel operators will pay residential rates and no business license fees.

And the neighbors will enjoy the partying,vacationing, dog bringing, car lot filling tourists,while they party the night away and leave their garbage for the maid ,since they are on vacation no need to keep the neighborhood clean. Occupancy rate of a single family home four people?Who cares -put in bunk beds and 12 fit easily-two people per car -only six extra cars in the neighbor hood ! Who cares ? Maybe the neighbor who's working a double shift has no where to park at his home and is kept up all night by the partying next door might not want to live in a hotel. Maybe residential neighborhoods enjoy knowing their neighbors ,and the 9 to 5 flow of a stable neighborhood. Being able to get away from the transient comings and goings of the tourists that most of us wait on every day is a pleasure we deserve for living here.

I totally agree about property rights but the whole of San Miguel county is not a hotel, and planning and zoning lets people know what they are getting when buying or renting a home.If you want to run a commercial rental buy a commercial rental-dont be a tax cheat and a bad neighbor.Thanks