County’s new codes address nightly rentals |

County’s new codes address nightly rentals

Those who rent out their homes to vacationers in unincorporated Grand County may be subjected to paying a $20 annual registration fee to the county.

During a “Short Term Rental Regulation” hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 20, commissioners opted to allow nightly rentals in all zones of the county, subject to a list of supplemental regulations in the zoning codes on top of an annual registration with the county.

Commissioner James Newberry made the motion to add in a registration component so the county may keep “better track” of those renting out their homes short-term – which some neighbors complain amounts to commercial businesses in otherwise quiet neighborhoods.

The registration will aid the county in checking whether homeowners are paying sales taxes and are in compliance, Newberry said. If found not to be, the county has the ability to turn names over to the state for state audits, according to County Clerk and Recorder Sara Rosene.

And for violations to the zoning code – with new regulations addressing trash, parking, noise, snow storage and the like – the newly adopted zoning amendments call for a $500 penalty against the owner for the second violation, and for the third, introduction to the court system.

Why should the county be “apologetic” for charging a fee? asked Sue Bennett, of Kremmling during the hearing. “You’re allowing a privilege, allowing a use that has not been allowed before. … My question is, without a registration, how could you possibly enforce much of this?” she asked.

Commissioner Gary Bumgarner voted against the registration factor for his unwillingness to “grow government.”

But Newberry said the registration fee should cover any extra work the program brings to county staff.

Former longtime rental manager Diane Butler guessed there are about 3,500 to 5,000 short-term rental units in the county; and at a previous meeting on the matter, rental managers guessed there are about 20,000 beds in the county.

Commissioner Nancy Stuart also voted for the proposal. Earlier in the nearly three-hour hearing on the short-term rental subject, Stuart had indicated she believes allowing such rentals might increase the number of them throughout the county.

But others disagreed. One reason may be because of the lack of enforcement over the years; most county residents may have thought the practice was already legal.

And most short-term renters don’t rent out homes all year long, said Robin Herbert of the Grand County Board of Realtors, post-meeting. Many may only rent them out over peak times such as Christmas week, she said.

Several Grand Lake town lodging-business owners attended the meeting, and most commented on the disparity in property taxes lodging business owners have to pay versus residential property owners who rent out their homes short-term. The town of Grand Lake attempted to close this gap when it adopted an annual short-term rental license fee of $400, which attempts to level the playing field between commercial properties and residential properties.

“I just want everybody to pay their fair share,” said Grand Lake lodging business owner Carey Barnes.

But the subject of classification of property taxes is a state matter, county officials said.

Because some homeowners may profit from renting out their homes on a nightly basis, residential short-term rentals serve to “exacerbate” the problem of affordable workforce housing and affordable home prices, said business owner Ray Blanchard, of Grand Lake.

But County Road 8 short-term-rental property owner Scott Mahoney said such homes are a needed product in today’s tourism market. Those who seek out vacation homes “want to wake up and prepare and eat breakfast together,” he said. “There’s enough business here to go around.”

During short-term rental stays, visitors spend their tourist dollars in local stores and for services, Mahoney said. And as far as their impact on neighborhoods: “I have had more bad neighbors,” he continued. “At least the renters go away the next day.”

Commissioners will review details of the registration fee at their meeting on Oct. 4.

Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

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