Cap discussion to take place Wednesday, February 15
By Mark Reaman
Taking one step forward and a half step back, the Crested Butte Town Council Monday passed a portion of Ordinance 12, Series 2016 dealing with short-term rentals (STRs) in town.
The approved ordinance deals with the so-called “meat and potatoes” aspect of the licensing, regulating and oversight of operating an STR in town. The council set a special meeting for February 15 to again dig into and discuss the ramifications of various options to limit or cap STRs in Crested Butte.
Two of the councilmembers, mayor Glenn Michel and councilwoman Laura Mitchell, recused themselves from the discussion. Michel has an STR business license in the Verzuh annexation, while Mitchell holds one in the M (mobile home) district. STRs are not currently allowed in those zones under current town regulations but the town has given out several such business licenses to property owners in such zones.
Councilman Jim Schmidt suggested separating the STR ordinance into two documents.
One document would deal with the “meat and potatoes” and would be separate from “any limitation we might do. It has been a difficult discussion that has not been easy at times and has been confusing,” Schmidt said. “We have more complete information now compared to when the citizens committee began their meetings.
“I would like to see the staff put together a graph or chart showing the differences if we decide to limit the number of days we allow units to be short-termed, if we limit the number of units in town that are allowed to be short-termed or if we use the current zoning,” continued Schmidt. “It should show the different impacts. I think we need to clearly see the pros and cons of each limitation. I would like to see us soon pass the mechanical or meat and potatoes elements of the ordinance.”
Schmidt said with only five councilmen now deliberating the issue, perhaps a work session with the citizens committee that crafted a recommendation on STRs would be in order.
Mayor pro tem Roland Mason was running the meeting in Michel’s absence and he agreed with Schmidt’s direction.
Mason said, “I am a supporter of the meat and potatoes elements. I think the licensing will take care of some of the concerns and bring down the numbers. Not everyone will pay for the license or go through the inspections. And it will allow us to address some of the practical issues that have been discussed. I agree that there should be a separate conversation about the limits. We haven’t really talked about where the zoning lies.”
Town manager Dara MacDonald said it would be simple to “carve out” the section of the proposed ordinance that dealt with proposed limits, caps and zoning issues. “But we would certainly need direction from the council on how to treat places like the Verzuh area where the town has issued licenses,” she said. “We need direction on how to treat such properties.”
“With only five of us and if we pass the original Ordinance 12 that deals with regulation, I want to be sure we are prepared to make a decision on the cap issue,” said councilman Chris Ladoulis. “Are we tabling the discussion on caps or are we saying we just don’t want to deal with it?”
“We aren’t starting from scratch but there is so much new information, I would like to see a chart of the various pros and cons and legalities of each option,” reiterated Schmidt.
“It has been a winding road, to say the least,” agreed Mason. “I’d like to see things laid out. And I’d like to see a statement on why we are dealing with this piece of the puzzle.”
“I think there will be some weeding out of licenses when people go to pay the new fees and realize they have to get their house up to public safety standards,” added councilman Paul Merck. “Some of this discussion has made us feel like we aren’t working as a community. Maybe we invite the [citizens] committee back to talk about the new information.”
“I feel like we’re uncomfortable and it’s convenient to not just get it across the finish line,” said Ladoulis. “We’ve been talking about it for more than a year. It could go another year. Let’s carve it up and act on it. Pushing it out another six months would disappoint the community. I just want to distinguish between collecting more information and not making a decision.”
Councilman Jackson Petito asked staff if the council could vote on the “meat and potatoes” that night and was told that would be possible.
Town building and zoning director Bob Gillie said not much new information would come to light with more meetings with the citizens committee. “The bottom line is you have a hard political issue with two entrenched camps on both sides,” he said. “I don’t disagree with Chris.”
“I still think we need to define exactly what we’re trying to do and different ways to do it,” said Mason. “It has been a sometimes confusing discussion to me and the council and the citizens. I don’t see a problem having a more honed discussion on this part of the issue. I don’t want to table it to another council. But there have been a lot of things that have changed. Even tonight we have two people step out of the discussion because of potential conflicts of interest.”
“And me being brought into the discussion in the middle of it is another change,” added Petito. “I am for gathering more information and perhaps talking to the committee.”
With that, Ladoulis moved to pass Ordinance 12 without the section related to limits. There was no more discussion from the council or members of the public in the audience. It passed 5-0.
A closer look at Ordinance 12
The ordinance essentially requires all vacation rentals in town to have a license by January 1, 2018 or be subject to penalties.
—The current zoning prohibitions on STRs will remain in place… for now.
—The cost of a license has not yet been set.
—The license will be good for two years and property inspections must take place at least every other year.
—If you are renting rooms in your house (and not the whole property) the owner or a representative must be on site while it is rented.
—The STR license does not transfer to a new owner during a sale.
—The ordinance requires that the town notify neighbors within 100 feet of the proposed short-term rental property of the license application.
—A contact person who can respond to the property within an hour if there is an issue must be around and registered with the town.
—Maximum rental occupancy is 10 people, with a variance possible under special circumstances.
The council then made it clear they did not want the STR limit discussion to fade away into the proverbial fog machine.
“I agree with Bob that this is a political decision and we all see the community is split on this,” said Schmidt. “I don’t know if the committee would help us get to a consensus.”
“We should continue the conversation while it is fresh,” suggested Mason.
The council set a special meeting to continue the discussion for Wednesday, February 15 at 6 p.m. MacDonald said the staff will gather the information requested by the council—and the discussion will continue.