Pitkin County commissioners frame rules on regulation of short-term residences
Draft ordinance calls for 90-day annual limit on rentals
After multiple meetings, the Pitkin County commissioners finally progressed on regulation of short-term rentals of residential units Wednesday night after four hours of discussion.
The commissioners voted 5-0 to give their staff direction on what they want to see in an ordinance on regulations of STRs. They will hold another public hearing and a vote on implementation of the ordinance June 22.
Board members expressed a desire to allow homeowners to profit from rentals without unraveling the fabric of neighborhoods.
“We are grasping at ways to make something equitable work,” said Commissioner Greg Poschman, adding that the work requires time. “I can’t apologize for how long this is taking.”
The primary provisions of the regulations include:
- People renting residences will be required to apply for a license that would be in effect for one year. Applying doesn’t guarantee receiving a license.
- To get a license, they must show they rented short term for some amount of time over the past five years, prior to May 1, 2022.
- Future rentals will have a four-day minimum per transaction and an annual limit of 90 days.
- The commissioners scrapped a controversial part of the ordinance that received extensive criticism in early public hearings. They threw out a provision that only permanent residents can rent short-term.
Board members expect that the 90-day limit will be most controversial provision for people who want to rent their property.
“People are going to tell us that’s not enough,” Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said.
Commissioner Steve Child agreed.
“They’ll rent them out for 365 days per year if they’re allowed to,” Child said, citing a pattern that he suspects is developing. “They’re becoming mini-hotels.”
Setting a maximum amount of time for short-term rentals will be in keeping with traditional patterns in Aspen, when people rented at high-occupancy times such as Christmas and New Year’s to raise extra cash, Child said.
McNicholas Kury and Commissioner Patti Clapper made comments that indicated they were most in favor of strict regulation of STRs.
Clapper said some people in parts of the county — east of Aspen, up the Fryingpan Valley and in Redstone — feel that proliferation of short-term rentals are making some people feel like their neighborhoods “are getting taken over.”
McNicholas Kury said the shift in vacation travel is contributing to a “car-centric” situation in the county because short-term renters tend to need private transportation. It is contributing to a transformation of the workforce, with more employees flocking to service short-term rentals and leaving traditional jobs in the tourist economy, she said. And, McNicholas Kury said, the pattern is contributing to a conversion of housing stock from long-term to short-term rentals, which is a major factor in the acute housing shortage.
Commissioner Francie Jacober was on the other end of the regulation spectrum. She doggedly resisted many of the proposed rules, such as placing an annual limit on the number of days a residence can be rented. In many cases, she insisted, people have “quietly” rented out their residences in rural Pitkin County without an issue. She interrupted her colleagues on numerous occasions to object to regulation suggestions.
Jacober said the county government needs more data on numbers of short-term rentals and rental patterns before determining how intensely to regulate that part of the market. She went along with the majority when it was clear she held a minority view.
Clapper said the county will evaluate its short-term rental regulations and made adjustments “in a reasonable amount of time.”
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Pitkin County Public Health will begin reaching out to 75 individuals found to have mercury levels in their blood meeting the state’s threshold for further investigation, according to a news release the county issued Tuesday.