Focus is on other housing and STR initiatives
[ By Kendra Walker ]
After considering the matter over several town council meetings and public engagement discussions this summer, the Mt. Crested Butte town council unanimously voted not to place a moratorium on new short-term rental (STR) licenses during its August 17 meeting.
“I think it’s really important that you guys make a decision tonight,” said town manager Isa Reeb. “A lot of people are just living in fear right now that they’re going to get something taken away. The uncertainty has been really difficult on our community as well as our staff fielding lots of phone calls and emails and panic and anger and yelling. People have not been nice about this.”
The town currently has more than 40 pending STR licenses, most of which have expressed they don’t plan to rent their unit but they just want the option.
“As I’ve talked to people around town the last couple weeks, the feeling was after the actions that we took two weeks ago that we could move forward with making decisions and getting stuff done without actually putting a moratorium out there,” said mayor Janet Farmer.
Earlier this month, the council moved forward with several housing initiatives, including allowing the Grand Lodge to temporarily long-term rent rooms to local employees, introducing a Housing Matters rental program with the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority, and making updates to the town’s STR regulations.
“I think what we should have done in the first place is put it on the agenda and voted on it right away, and we created this problem,” said councilmember Roman Kolodziej. “We created this firestorm of people freaking out because they bought a house that was priced twice what it was worth and the only way to pay it off is to short-term rent it. So it’s our own fault. I think we created this. The saving grace in all this is staff gave us four actionable items out of last meeting… they came up with substance that we were able to take action on. So I think that’s the only thing that’s saved this situation. I encourage staff to keep doing what they’ve been doing and hopefully these people who are angry can be angry at something else,” said Kolodziej.
“I understand everything that everyone has said and we’ve made some really good progress in terms of solutions here…I do think that we as a council really need to nail down our plans for our community,” said councilmember Lauren Koelliker. “We continue to state repeatedly that we don’t want to be a bedroom community and that everyone just thinks of us as a bedroom community…I think looking towards the future we should really think about that and look at what policies we can enact to not be a bedroom community. If we continue to see the trajectory of short-term rentals, if it goes up 10 percent every year like it did this past year, I certainly don’t want to live in a community that’s 90 percent short-term rentals and 10 percent residents.”
She continued, “I do think maybe a moratorium is not the way to tackle that but I think it makes more sense to look a little more closely…I do think that the policies that we put into place today shape the community that we’ll have in five, 10, 20 years.”
“I’ve been confused why there’s been no discussion of taxing, increasing the tax if we think that short-term rentals are a sin then we could have a sin tax and increase the amount of tax that we put on it,” said councilmember Nicholas Kempin. “I’d also like folks to consider how many people are employed here in the valley in construction, property management, housekeeping and so on. And so I am not for a blanket moratorium. I think there’s a lot of other things we can do but a blanket moratorium without something, for instance, that allows locals to rent their own primary residence is not something I could be in favor of.”
About 15 people attended the meeting for this particular agenda item, but the council made a motion and a second on the issue before opening it up to public comment and therefore, unintentionally, was unable to take any public comment on the matter.
The council voted 7-0 not to place any moratorium on new short-term rentals in Mt. Crested Butte.
“I think there’s some other things that we can do to continue to affect people when they’re actually here,” said Kolodziej.
“We still have a couple more action items…We will still be working on this, we’re not done.” said Farmer.