Crested Butte tackling new vacation rental regulations

Dealing with business properties in residential neighborhoods

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

The town of Crested Butte has started the process of updating its vacation rental regulations overseeing short-term rental (STR) properties in town. A public meeting will be held Wednesday, August 24 but a town council work session on Monday outlined the direction and timeline of the process.

According to Crested Butte community development director Troy Russ, the idea is to implement the Community Compass decision-making framework to evaluate and modify the rental rules. STR regulations were implemented in 2017 and limit the number of so-called unlimited vacation rental licenses to 30% of eligible zoning districts, which currently equates to 212 units. For the town as a whole, the 212 STR licenses represent 17% of the Crested Butte residential housing stock.

A separate category called Primary Residence Vacation Rentals allows local homeowners to short-term rent their property up to 60 nights a year for a smaller license fee. But there is a current moratorium through February 2023 on accepting any more unlimited license applications, so through attrition, there are currently 192 active licenses. The staff and council want to reevaluate how best to move ahead with regulating STRs in town.

Russ said formulating a “problem statement” would be the first step in the updating process and he provided the council with a draft. The proposal basically asked how the town should regulate “this commercial licensed business in residential zone districts…” while aligning with Crested Butte’s affordable housing goals and helping to improve the quality of life in local neighborhoods and addressing impacts of STRs on the community and its housing stock. The staff report emphasized that vacation rentals by their nature, “create a commodity out of the local housing stock, shifting the market away from people buying a home to be lived in into people buying homes as a business investment.”

“It seems the stress with zoning is having such a commercial use in a residential neighborhood,” said mayor Ian Billick.

“Much richer connections with social engagement come with people living in neighborhoods,” said Russ.

Councilperson Beth Goldstone wanted to see details of exactly where vacation rentals are permitted throughout town along with where the people holding the unlimited licenses live…whether they are locals or live outside the community.

Councilperson Jason MacMillan said it would be important to see how changes in the town’s regulations impact regional neighbors. For example, if the town prohibits STRs that could move them to other locations and put added pressure on the county or in Mt. Crested Butte.

Community outreach will take place between now and October with a series of meetings starting with the one on August 24 which will be followed by targeted stakeholder meetings.

Russ said updated data about what has happened to vacation rental licenses that were not renewed will be provided through the public process. He also said that one piece of the ongoing conversation will be how to implement the new ordinance. Issues like “grandfathering in” those that currently have unlimited licenses will be part of the discussion.

“We’re trying to be objective and neutral with this process,” said Crested Butte long range planner Mel Yemma.

Local builder Jimmy Faust was at the work session and said he and his wife Sarah McAllister have three vacation rental licenses. “We can be a resource for the town for information,” he said. “We want to work with you on this. We hope our licenses can be grandfathered in as part of the process.”

“We want to put a human face to the monster of STRs,” added McAllister. “They have a bad rap and have had bad impacts in a lot of places. We understand there’s a problem but there are ways to do this right.”

Everyone is invited to the August 24 meeting at town hall and the council hopes to see a new, updated ordinance regulating vacation rentals at the November 7 council meeting.

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