County changes permit process for short-term rentals | SkyHiNews.com

County changes permit process for short-term rentals

Grand County Commissioners recently approved a new fee schedule and regulatory regimen for short-term rental properties in the county following a discussion and review process that lasted several months.

The board had been mulling over the complex issue of regulations for short-term rental properties within the county since January, finally coming to a consensus late last month. The process involved numerous stakeholder groups and individuals working alongside county planners to develop a new fee schedule and ancillary regulations allowing for greater enforcement of STR rules.

Short-term rentals are considered privately owned residences that are rented out on a short-term basis, usually overnight or up to a few days. Such rentals are often referred to as STRs, VRBOs — vacation rental by owner — or AirBnBs, named for the eponymous mobile app-based business popularized over the last few years.

Part of the push for new regulations was based on the knowledge that there were significant unregistered short-term rentals in the county, according to Grand County Community Development Director Bill Gray. Gray noted in March that roughly 300 STRs were registered with the county but estimated there were actually somewhere between 700 and 1,000 in unincorporated Grand County. At the time, Gray estimated a total of roughly 3,000 STRs in the county, including those not under county jurisdiction in the municipalities of Grand County.

Under the new regulations, STRs will be regulated through a permitting process. Property owners looking to offer their residences as STRs must register through the county and obtain a permit prior to advertising the property. The permitting fee has been set at $150 annually, up from the $20 registration fee the county previously assessed.

Commissioners were considering imposing a $600 permitting fee for STRs, but lowered the figure after input from local stakeholders.

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Further points of contention during the regulation development process included issues with a square footage requirement per STR occupant that some local property managers worried could drastically limit the number of residences that could legally accommodate families of vacationers. That requirement was stricken from the final draft approved by the board.

The new regulations apply only to STRs located within unincorporated Grand County. Other communities, such as Winter Park and Grand Lake, maintain their own regulations that were not impacted by the commissioner's vote.

Regulations for STRs will continue to allow the accommodations in all zoned districts within the county. The county has also set up a formal enforcement regimen including progressive fines for recurring violations.

An initial violation of the county's short-term rental regulations will result in a $500 fine. A second violation will cost $1,000, while a third violation is grounds for having an STR permit revoked or suspended.

Gray noted the decision to revoke or suspend a license is not a county staff decision.

"We collect the evidence," he said. "The board decides if a permit would be suspended or revoked."

He also noted that county staffers will be required to physically go to a property to document alleged violations and all penalties and violation designations are appealable to the Board of Commissioners. Prior to a fine being levied, the information will be presented to the county manager, according to Gray.

Commissioners unanimously approved the new regulations and fee schedule May 23, and they went into effect the following day.