Basalt council backs off law on short-term rentals |

Basalt council backs off law on short-term rentals

BASALT – The Basalt Town Council on Tuesday backed off approving an ordinance that Town Manager Bill Kane said has the potential to be a “wedge issue pitting neighbor against neighbor.”

The council was scheduled to vote for the second and final time on a proposed ordinance that would prohibit short-term rentals of residences for less than 30 days. Instead, the council took Kane’s suggestion to form a committee to study the issue and come up with a compromise between property owners who rent their dwellings and their neighbors.

The town shifted gears after numerous real estate agents and some homeowners flooded Town Hall with letters and calls stating that high-end home rental was a desperately needed service that benefits Basalt’s economy at a time when it needs any boost it can get.

Approximately 20 representatives of the real estate industry attended a hearing on the issue Tuesday night. Many cheered for one speaker’s suggestion that the council lift any prohibitions on short-term rentals.

High-end homes rent for $3,000 to $5,000 per week, Stacey Craft of Chaffin Light Real Estate told the council at a public hearing. She said wealthy travelers who want to stay in Basalt have no alternative for large, upscale accommodations.

“We probably have 50 houses in town that are doing this,” Craft said. “Basalt’s becoming a destination for vacation renters.”

She said she has handled rentals of numerous homes and “gotten almost no complaints” from neighbors. The renters tend to be older than 35 and in bed at 10 p.m. rather than partying into the wee hours, she said.

“We’re not talking about the X Games renters,” Craft said.

Ridge Road resident Kent Whinnery presented a different picture to the council. He said living next to a short-term residence is distressing for him and his wife because of noise.

“It’s made our life miserable,” Whinnery said. “There is no enjoyment of our home, by and large.”

He sought relief from the Town Council late last summer. The town code doesn’t allow short-term rentals of dwellings, so Whinnery asked that it be enforced. Kane said enforcement is complaint-driven and the town staff is conferring with town attorney Tom Smith on the Whinnery complaint.

Tom Brower, who owns and rents out the home next to Whinnery, said he tries to be a good neighbor and he has tried to be responsive to the handful of complaints he has received. He said he rented his home 240 days between June 1, 2010, and June 1, 2011, often employing an online home rental service. During that time he has only received two complaints. He supported formation of a committee to work out compromises. He doesn’t want his homeowners association to settle the issue.

“I’m scared of my HOA because they’ll hang me out to dry,” he said.

In a meeting two weeks ago, the council favored a compromise of the short-term rental issue by prohibiting rentals of less than 30 days. Two readings are required.

Last night, Kane said that the town encountered “land mines” while pursuing that solution. The five members of the council who were present at the meeting – Mayor Leroy Duroux and council members Anne Freedman, Glenn Rappaport, Karin Teague and Jacque Whitsitt – agreed unanimously to follow Kane’s suggestion to slow down and form a committee to re-examine the issues. Council members stressed that the committee can’t be stacked with people on one side of the issue or another.

Meanwhile, Duroux reminded the crowd that an ordinance prohibiting short-term rentals is in effect. “Ignoring the law for personal gain is not a good thing to do,” he said.

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