Pitkin County’s short-term rental ordinance set for public hearing
Commissioners, officials discuss ‘hotelification’ and ‘diminished’ neighborhoods
Pitkin County commissioners preliminarily approved an ordinance Wednesday that regulates the short-term rental industry in unincorporated areas of the county and will require a license.
The proposed ordinance — scheduled for public comment at a hearing with commissioners Jan. 26 — is a bid to both collect sales tax on properties rented for less than 30 days and protect neighborhoods in Woody Creek, Old Snowmass and on Red Mountain from being hotelized by out of town, investment property owners.
Under the proposal, a non-primary residence cannot be rented on a short-term basis. For properties owned by legal entities like LLCs or trusts, the applicant must have an interest in the property.
“The hotelification of neighborhoods is a real concern,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said. “(Neighborhoods are) part of what makes the community the community, and we need to preserve that.”
Unlike cities, counties don’t generally have the ability to license businesses, said Pitkin County Attorney John Ely. However, that changed somewhat in 2020 when the Colorado legislature allowed counties the ability to license and regulate units available for short-term rentals.
That law was focused mainly on complaints from Summit County about an inability to collect state sales tax from the exploding short-term rental market, Ely said. When Pitkin County began discussing regulation of the short-term rental market, sales tax collection was the main focus as well, until public comments came back to officials.
At that time, county officials decided to include two main limitations on Pitkin County’s short-term rental market — no rentals allowed in the Rural and Remote Zone District and only owner-occupied, primary residences could qualify for a short-term rental license.
Excising Rural and Remote properties — like cabins on the backside of Aspen Mountain – from the short-term rental ordinance is a reflection of the recognition in that zone of a definite lack of emergency services compared to the rest of the county, Ely said. That fact is unlikely to be known by potential weekend renters.
Allowing only owners of properties used as primary residences to be able to obtain a short-term rental license is a bid to combat those who buy county properties as investment vehicles and rent them out on a short-term basis to create a revenue stream until they can flip them for a profit, he said. It is a common part of short-term rental ordinances from other cities.
Such actions lead to “diminished neighborhoods,” Ely said.
Commissioners also agreed Wednesday that the ordinance would go into effect April 30, that the maximum number of people allowed to stay at a short-term rental will be twice the number of bedroom plus two and that no limit of rental days would be imposed, at least initially.
They did not like the fact that the proposed ordinance would allow tenants with long-term leases to apply for short-term rental licenses, even though Ely said such renters would have to get permission from the property owners to obtain the license. Commissioners worried that such an exception could be abused.
Board members also want more information about how properties with multiple houses and owners might be dealt with under the proposed ordinance.
Both the city of Aspen and the Town of Snowmass Village require short-term rental licenses, though the regulations are not the same as those proposed by Pitkin County, County Manager Jon Peacock said.
The city of Aspen’s program was adopted in October 2020, though the City Council passed an emergency moratorium last week that halts applications for STR licenses until new regulations are put into effect.
A streambank stabilization project on the Crystal River just west of Marble is on hold after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that the work undertaken this past summer fell outside what is allowed by the project’s permit.