Snowmass town officials like idea of short-term rental permits |

Snowmass town officials like idea of short-term rental permits

Expanding use of lodging, marketing taxes to support workforce housing also on the table

Snowmass Town Hall on May 3, 2020.
Maddie Vincent/Snowmass Sun

Developing a short-term rental permit process in Snowmass Village is an idea that elected officials and staff said they could get behind during ongoing talks about vacation rentals at a Feb. 7 Town Council meeting.

The town requires a business license for short-term rental operators but does not have a permitting process specific to individual short-term rental units.

The proposal would help the town both track and regulate the inventory of homes, condos and other units that are rented out to visitors, according to a “Possible Next Steps” white sheet included in this week’s council packet. It also has the potential to “help with equitable sales/lodging tax collection” and add clarity to the “vagaries and nuances” of the town’s land use code’s rules for single-family home use, according to the white sheet.

“If we can create a permit system and say, ‘This is what we want to have happen, we think we can eliminate a lot of those vagaries,” Town Manager Clint Kinney said. “If it’s a yes or a no or a yes-then, or however, a permit system would be the cleanest way to make those kind of determinations.”

Those “vagaries” include quirks in the definition of some terms and permitted uses in specific zones where “there are all sorts of different terms and languages in different spots,” Kinney said.

The town will be workshopping that proposed permitting process as the conversation about short-term rentals moves forward, but there are no policies set in stone yet.

Also on the table for discussion Monday night was a proposal to ask voters about expanding the use of the lodging tax and marketing sales taxes to support workforce housing initiatives, according to the white sheet. The taxes are currently restricted to tourism and marketing efforts; the white sheet also identified a proposal for the creation of a new tax to support workforce housing as a possibility.

Those ideas have their pros and cons, town officials recognized.

Tourism Director Rose Abello said there is “probably some room” for that funding pool to support workforce housing, but that she also would want to have some stability with the tourism fund to ensure department operations aren’t left in the lurch when spending-intensive housing initiatives come into the fray.

Housing Director Betsy Crum and Councilman Tom Fridstein both expressed concerns that expanding the spending use of the existing tax funds could put departments in competition with one another for resources, though Kinney said the proposal would not be a “zero sum game.”

“We need more workforce housing than any other point probably in our history,” Crum said. “At the same time, it’s because we’re so successful as a resort. … I’m happy to see as many resources come to housing as possible. I like that component of the proposal, is that we can take advantage in a way of this tremendous demand and have it result in resources that can then be used to offset the negatives that it creates.”

Town staff believe that the two ideas together could help address three sticking points in the prickly conversation about short-term rentals and their impacts on the community of Snowmass Village: The town wants more data on the inventory, residential neighborhoods are affected by the presence of short-term rentals, and the town needs more housing for its workforce, according to a “proposed problem definition” in the next-steps white sheet.

(Those “problems” are identified with the caveat that “(i)t has proven difficult to identify the problem with any specificity” and that “(i)t is clear that the Town does not have a full understanding of how short-term rentals positively and/or negatively affect the entire community.”)

Town officials encourage public feedback as they move forward brainstorming different approaches to the current short-term rental situation.

“(It) seems to be a good path forward,” Madsen said. “I think we should get as much input as we can from the community.”

But with so many different perspectives and so many people with stake in the game, there won’t be one clear or easy path forward, they acknowledged.

“I do really think this is a great start and there’s a lot of things to think about,” Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk said. “And I don’t think we’re going to get it right the first time around, and there’s gonna probably be a lot of tweaking. … It should be people’s right to want to rent out their homes, but I do think that we need to really start thinking how we can ensure that the quality of life that people come here for and want to be here for is maintained, because there’s no worse feeling than feeling like when you’re at home, it’s not comfortable.”