Aspen wants to crack down on ‘bandit’ vacation rentals |

Aspen wants to crack down on ‘bandit’ vacation rentals

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Those who work in the Aspen commercial lodging industry – as well as those who occasionally rent out their homes to vacationers – will get the chance Monday night to speak out about a proposal that seeks to crack down on the city’s nonpermitted short-term rentals in residential areas.

The vacation-rental discussion and a possible vote are scheduled for the end of the Aspen City Council’s regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

Basically, the city is looking to require homeowners in areas zoned as residential districts who rent out their properties for stays of less than 30 days at a time to obtain a permit and business license and to pay sales and lodging taxes. Those permits would be subject to an annual review based on various criteria. The cost of the business licenses and permits, as well as the proposed staff-review criteria, has struck a nerve with many local operators of vacation rentals in the west end and east side of town.

A Community Development Department staff recommendation suggests regulating the number of stays a property owner could book per year but not the cumulative number of nights.

“Staff finds that regulating the number of stays per year is more sensitive to neighborhood impacts than limiting the number of nights per year,” said senior planner Sara Adams in a recent memorandum to the council.

For example, she wrote, a limit of 30 cumulative rental nights per year could mean 15 different families rent for two nights per year, which translates into 30 different check-ins and check-outs and all of the associated services such as cleaning, transportation and the like.

“On the other hand, limiting the number of stays per year controls the number of families but not the number of nights,” Adams wrote in her memo. “For example, a limit of six stays per year means six families could stay between one and 30 nights each.”

While such a policy could result in a maximum of 180 nights rented at a single location, Adams argues that the impact might not be as great on the neighborhoods as the scenario limiting the number of nights per year.

“A 30-day rental is arguably less impactful than a nightly rental and adds vitality to Aspen’s residential neighborhoods,” she wrote. “Limiting the number of stays rather than the number of nights also is easier for the public to understand and staff to administer.”

City staffers have proposed continuing to allow unlimited vacation rentals in areas zoned as lodging and commercial districts.

Rather than proposing a different rental limitation within each type of residential-zoned area, staffers have proposed the following rules for all types:

• Single-family homes and duplexes: Six rentals would be allowed per year, each one lasting between one and 30 days.

• Multi-family dwellings: There are three options. First, the city could allow unlimited rentals for multi-family buildings within the Residential Multi-Family District while limiting those in other types of residential districts. The second option would be treating all residential dwellings, whether multi-family or single-family/duplex, the same. The third option would be to allow unlimited rentals in all residential districts.

“Staff originally proposed unlimited rentals, similar to the program in Breckenridge. The impacts on neighbors and neighborhood character seem to be council’s primary concerns,” Adams wrote.

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