Commissioner rift over short-term rental policies in county |

Commissioner rift over short-term rental policies in county

Short-term rental conversation continues at Pitkin County board meeting

After more hours of debate and public comment Wednesday, Pitkin County commissioners did not find common ground when it comes to adopting a short-term rental ordinance.

The five-member board remained split on the major issue of who should be allowed to obtain a short-term rental license in unincorporated Pitkin County — principal residents and longtime homeowners or everyone who wants one.

“I cannot support the short-term rental ordinance as it currently stands,” Commissioner Francie Jacober said, reading from a prepared statement toward the end of Wednesday’s lengthy meeting. “I won’t vote for an ordinance that discriminates against those who cannot or do not live in the county.”

Jacober took issue with a compromise first suggested last month by Board Chair Patti Clapper that in lieu of being principal residents, those who want a short-term rental license could show 30 years of ownership of the home they want to rent out or 10 years of short-term rental history. Jacober said she would not favor “old Aspen families” over those who are not “megawealthy” but still own Pitkin County property and enjoy spending time here.

The forceful denunciation prompted an equally strong reaction from Clapper.

“In no way was I attempting to discriminate against anyone,” Clapper said. “And I’m offended you would say that.”

Jacober countered that perhaps Clapper hadn’t been trying to discriminate, but that’s in fact what she was doing.

Commissioner Steve Child sided with Jacober, saying he’d rather limit the number of days a property was allowed to be on the short-term rental market. Child suggested a 90-day limit.

Jacober and Child have been hesitant for months to support the portion of the proposed ordinance limiting rentals to principal residents or those with significant property ownership history in the county.

Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury, who previously has become frustrated with fellow board members for trying to upend months of work on the proposed ordinance, said Wednesday that she appreciated Child’s suggestion of a 90-day limit. However, she said she wasn’t sure it really addressed the main issues at stake, and that the board would inevitably hear from people who needed 200 days to make such an arrangement viable.

“I’m concerned that what you’re raising is an auditing nightmare,” McNicholas Kury said, where people who abuse the limit could easily escape punishment. “I continue to think we’ve been on the right track.”

Commissioner Greg Poschman said his heart went out of recent short-term rental property investors in Redstone — many of whom spoke at Wednesday’s meeting — though he cast doubt on whether the new Redstone residents were actually committed to being part of the community.

“How many times have we heard developers say something like that?” he asked.

Before the commissioner debate, Pitkin County Attorney John Ely went through the fine points of the ordinance as it currently reads. The major highlights include:

• The exclusion of all backcountry huts, including those in the Braun and 10th Mountain systems.

• Not allowing tenants of properties to obtain short-term rental licenses, with only owners allowed that right.

• All those who rent out property for less than 30 days must have a license issued by the county.

• All adjoining property owners must be notified 15 days before a property’s short-term rental license application is considered.

• The number of renters cannot exceed two per bedroom.

• An applicant must specify how long they intend to spend at their property.

• Applicant must be the principal resident of the property.

• The principal resident requirement could be waived if the applicant could show 10 years of ownership by the same family or could show the property has been used as a short-term rental for at least five years (Clapper’s original proposal of 30 years of ownership or 10 years of rental history was revised).

• Rural and Remote zoning district properties are generally excluded, though the ordinance includes a mechanism for such property owners to apply with final decisions to be made by the board of commissioners.

• No more than one short-term rental would be allowed for a single property or parcel.

• License holders must keep detailed short-term rental records.

• The ordinance would become law 90 days after the board passes it.

• Licenses would be valid for one year.

Board members voted Wednesday to forward on all of those provisions to a third reading of the ordinance, which was scheduled for May 11. The fact that all five commissioners voted to forward the ordinance as it currently reads, however, does not mean that all of the above items will be included in the final version.

Minor changes to the above provisions could be adopted as part of an ordinance in May, though major changes like adding a limit to short-term rental days or eliminating the principal resident requirements would result in further delays in adopting the ordinance, Ely said.

Pitkin County’s proposed ordinance would only apply to unincorporated areas of the county. Properties on the short-term rental market within the city of Aspen, Snowmass Village or the town of Basalt would fall under ordinances enacted by those municipalities.