Council now looking at cap-and-zone to limit STRs

It’s in the ballpark of where the citizens committee landed

By Mark Reaman

In an effort to simplify a proposed limit on short-term rentals (STRs) in Crested Butte the council is now leaning toward a combination of zoning and a percentage cap to keep the allowed STR units in town in check.

The council will consider an ordinance at the March 20 meeting that would cap the percentage of STRs in zones where such rentals are currently permitted to no more than 35 percent. There are currently 646 such free market units in town and 206 have STR business licenses. That is about 32 percent.

The council plans to allow anyone who has been issued an STR business license in a zone that does not legally allow STRs to be “grandfathered in” and keep that license but not permit any more STRs in such zones. There are 58 such licenses in town.

Council would allow houses in the B-4 zone at the end of Elk Avenue to be part of the permitted zone but other town zones that currently prohibit rentals such as B-1, the mobile home district or homes located in the Verzuh annexation locations will not be allowed any more STRs.

There will be no limit on the number of nights a licensed dwelling can be short-term rented in a year and no special consideration will be given to owner-occupied units.

STR licenses will not be automatically transferred with a property sale.

The council came to the cap-and-zone equation Monday night when mayor pro tem Roland Mason suggested the five council members considering the issue keep it simple. Mayor Glenn Michel and councilwoman Laura Mitchell have recused themselves from STR discussions since they both hold STR business licenses in prohibited zones.

The remaining five council members came to a consensus that the problem they are trying to solve is that no one wants the town to turn into one giant hotel or a number of small hotels in every residential neighborhood.

“I don’t see a problem today and the regulating ordinance that we recently passed will address some issues but I want to look at the future. I would like to keep things simple and I’m now tending toward looking at an overall percentage or hard number cap on short-term rentals throughout town,” Mason said.

“I have heard from people living in residential neighborhoods that they want to continue to do so,” said councilman Jackson Petito.

“I’d want a hard cap,” said Mason. “Once that number is hit, then that’s the number. If we limit the days, I think everyone will max out July and not spread it out.”

“The core for me is that through our zoning we give people certain expectations when they buy a place in a residential zone,” said councilman Chris Ladoulis. “There has to be some line. It’s not black and white. If the primary use of a home is to rent it out versus to live there and raise a family there, it is hard to define. I think we can use some zoning and some limit on number of days allowed.”

“With just five of us up here, we need four votes to approve anything so I think a simple solution is palatable. I think we need to keep it simple and limit the number of permits above where they are now,” insisted Mason. “The market will dictate how many times a place is used. I know it won’t satisfy those who think there are already too many but I feel it works.”

“The nuts and bolts ordinance addressing STRs will help and it is now in place,” said councilman Paul Merck.

Councilman Jim Schmidt threw out the idea of capping the STRs in currently permitted zones to 35 percent. He wanted to keep the B-1 zone in place for long-term renters but allow the B-4 zone to have unlimited STRs with proper licensing. He suggested grandfathering in those with town business licenses for STRs in prohibited zones but not allow any more permits in those zones. “Let’s start there and throw rocks at it,” he suggested.

“That is close to where the citizens committee was,” noted town Building and Zoning director Bob Gillie. “With a percentage limit, the cap would move as the town got built out. And don’t kid yourself—that percentage cap will fill out within a month.”

Citizens committee member and property manager Steve Ryan said he liked Mason’s idea to keep the restrictions simple. “Putting that hard number or percentage cap across the board makes it simple to regulate. Everyone knows the expectations. That is spot-on,” he said.

Local resident Jim Starr said the council was right to define the issue they were trying to solve as a loss of residential community. “I would encourage you to allow owner-occupied dwellings to be short-term rented. I also strongly encourage you to put a limit on the number of days each can be rented. Look at 90 days with maybe a bonus in the slower season. And you need adequate parking regulations for STRs. Then review it all in, say, three years,” he suggested.

Nicole Blaser said she saw both sides of the debate but for her personally, part of her long-term plan to stay in Crested Butte was to use the vacation rental business. “I’m excited by Roland’s idea because it addresses both sides,” she said.

Susan Eskew said Blaser was an example of a middle class resident using STRs to be able to stay in Crested Butte. “The market will correct itself. For me, I am long-term renting a place right now. My June and August are looking strong but July is slow. People perhaps don’t want the pressure of July so the market will change.”

The council decided to go with Schmidt’s outline and instructed the town staff to write up an ordinance addressing their desire. They will consider the ordinance at the next meeting on March 20.

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