Public Hearing Scheduled for Discussion of Short-Term Rentals
by Gus Jarvis
Jul 26, 2012 | 2465 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print

SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – The use of single-family homes, caretaker units and accessory dwelling units as short-term rentals in the unincorporated areas of San Miguel County will be the focus of a San Miguel Board of County Commissioners public hearing on Wednesday, Aug. 1.

The Commissioners will take public comment regarding the possibility of a Land Use Code amendment designed to clarify current regulation of short-term rentals. According to County Planning Director Mike Rozycki, the LUC’s language pertaining to short-term rentals of single-family dwellings is ambiguous. While the hearing may lead the commissioners to consider various regulatory options, Rozycki said no decision has been made regarding an amendment that permits, permits with conditions, or prohibits short-term rentals in any county zone districts.

Nor will any LUC amendments be drafted, prior to the hearing.

“I want to be clear that the intent of the public meeting is to present information and share the benefits of research we have done with other mountain town resorts and communities on how they handle short-term rentals,” Rozycki said, adding that the “commissioners want to hear” from persons now operating short-term rentals, about “their views and opinions....And then, have a discussion on what the various options could be.”

Possible options range from allowing short-term rentals without restrictions to allowing them with some form of review process to simply not allowing the use of short-term rentals all. Should short-term rentals be deemed allowable, details of how state lodging taxes are collected will be a topic of discussion.

The county’s LUC states caretaker units cannot be rented for a time period of less than 30 days, and accessory dwelling units cannot be rented for less than six months.

“The Land Use Code doesn’t have that kind of specific language for single-family residences,” Rozycki said.

Policy on short-term rentals to date, Rozycki said, is that short-term rentals of single-family dwellings are akin to operating a hotel or a bed and breakfast. As defined in the LUC, commercial operations defined as such are not considered to be a use allowed by right in any of the county zone districts.

After speaking with representatives from other counties in Colorado, Rozycki found that San Miguel County is not alone in trying to find the best way to handle short-term rentals of single-family dwellings. Boulder, Jefferson and Lake counties have all recently gone through LUC amendment processes to provide more specific provisions on short-term rentals.

“In the past, some of the counties looked at short-term rental use and didn’t allow them,” he said. “In recent years,” more short-term rentals are coming on the market, forcing officials “to figure out how they fit into the whole tourist economy and how to allow them including paying requisite taxes and, if needed, certain levels of regulations and restrictions.”

Since the commissioners directed county staff to begin exploring details of a possible short-term rentals amendment to the LUC in March, concerns have been voiced about whether or not prohibiting short-term rentals constitutes rent control, as if 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 argue that prohibiting short-term rentals is a form of rent control, while others would argue that prohibiting the use is not controlling the price of the rental, but rather defining whether or not it is an allowed use. From what Rozycki’s been hearing from other counties that have recently enacted short-term rental regulations, the Telluride Case doesn’t appear to have any bearing on possible amendments to the LUC on short-term rentals.

“It’s fair to say most attorneys representing local governments don’t consider this to be a form of rent control,” he said.

The Aug. 1 public hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in commissioners meeting room, located in the Second Floor of the Miramonte Building at 333 W. Colorado Ave. If 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. or @gusgusj

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