CB council approves changes to vacation rentals

If you play ball, remember that with three strikes, you’re out!

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

With little additional public discussion, the Crested Butte town council voted to revamp the town vacation rental licensing rules on Monday, November 21. The issue has been thoroughly discussed in several public meetings over the course of the last many months and several tweaks to the licensing come with the new regulations.

While “grandfathering in” all current license holders, the town will eventually strive to have no more than two so-called “unlimited” vacation rental licenses on any town “block-face” where such licenses are permitted within the 10 qualifying zone districts. The idea is to cut down on the number of short-term rentals (STRs) in any given neighborhood and thus reduce nuisance potentials and improve community and neighborhood compatibility. Unlimited license holders will be mandated to rent the property a minimum of 30 nights per year. There will be no such restriction on the so-called “primary” vacation rental licenses that can be issued to permanent residents in any town zone district. However, those licenses will be restricted to having only 90 rental nights allowed annually. Deed restricted property may not be issued a vacation rental license.

Other additions include implementing a “three-strike” policy where any license holder may be subject to a warning, fine and revocation of the license for up to two years for violating any provision of the town code and vacation rental nuisance rules. Town is purchasing software meant to track and manage such nuisance complaints and that will likely result in a higher license fee. Also going forward, individuals will be limited to one vacation rental license. A local contact person must be listed on the license to be able to respond to complaints within an hour of them being made. 

While primary licenses can be issued any time of the year, new unlimited licenses will be issued in December for the coming year. If there are more applicants than available licenses, a lottery will be held to award the license. A license does not follow the property so for example if a house is sold, the new owner would have to fall in the line and begin a new application process. 

The idea is that through attrition, the cap on the number of unlimited licenses in town would be about 198. The current max is 212 with 192 currently issued as a result of the moratorium on new applications. 

Councilwoman Gabi Prochaska suggested based on feedback she had received that the primary licenses be allowed to rent up to 120 nights. She also suggested that full-time residents holding unlimited licenses be given a “pause” on the mandate to rent the property a minimum of 30 days a year. She did not receive enough support by the rest of the council to implement those changes.

Councilmember Anna Fenerty suggested that complaints made over specific short-term rental properties up to this point be added to the three strikes policy that goes into effect January 1. Town attorney Karl Hanlon said the town will begin officially logging complaints and every license will go through an evaluation process upon renewal.

Martha Keene again asked the council to go further with their restrictions. “The options don’t meet what we need for this community,” she said. “These are small businesses operating in neighborhoods. I live in a large condo building and they are above, below and all around me. It doesn’t seem fair that the license holders get a clean slate, but my complaints are not grandfathered in. 

“Reducing the number of licenses by 12 is not enough,” she continued. “When these businesses on Elk Avenue reopen, the housing crisis will again re-emerge its ugly head. I’m not saying get rid of STRs, but this decision will impact the future of the town.”

Mindy Sturm again raised several concerns about the new regulations from asking about the need for a 30-day rental minimum with unlimited licenses and a 90-day rental max with primary licenses.

The council voted 4-1 to approve the new vacation rental licensing regulations with Fenerty voting no. “A lot of these regulations depend on attrition and looking to the future. While I appreciate that,” Fenerty said, “we are experiencing a housing crunch now and this is not enough.”

Billick, Prochaska, Goldstone and Magner voted for the new rules. Councilmembers Chris Haver and Jason MacMillan were not at the meeting.

The new regulations go into effect January 1, 2023, and will end the current moratorium.

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