Grand County mulls moratorium on short-term rental licenses with almost 500 operating illegally

The red dots represent short-term rentals that are unregistered and the blue dots represent registered short-term rentals. Over half of the advertised rentals are unregistered.
BOCC agenda

An explosion of short-term rentals, along with hundreds of violations related to the properties, has Grand County commissioners considering a moratorium on new licenses, as well as stricter policies and enforcement.

On Tuesday, commissioners heard County Planner Taylor Schlueter relay recent data about short-term rentals in the county. Schlueter said there are about 915 active short-term rentals in unincorporated Grand County, and over half of them — 493 units — are unregistered.

Short-term rentals are required to obtain a permit annually and pay a $25 per person fee based on the unit’s capacity.

Violations of the county regulations result in a warning on the first round, a $500 fine for the second violation, $1,000 for a third violation and a revocation or suspension of the permit for the fourth violation.

However, Schlueter said a lack of staff to enforce the law and little precedent for prosecuting violations have inhibited efforts to curtail the scofflaws.

“That, to me, seems quite problematic that we’re having such a high percentage of people essentially blowing us off,” Commissioner Merrit Linke said.

Commissioner Kris Manguso advocated for a higher level of enforcement on the unregistered units and a moratorium on new licenses while the county examines its short-term rental policies.

She said the rapid increase in short-term rentals is putting a greater crunch on the housing crisis, which has pushed her to believe more regulation is necessary even though she generally favors individual property rights.

“We need to at least try to mitigate the problem,” Manguso said. “Is it going to stop the affordable housing crisis? No, (but) it’s a quicker solution than trying to build.”

While Manguso and Linke expressed support for a moratorium on new licenses, Commissioner Rich Cimino called it a “knee-jerk” reaction, as he argued for increasing enforcement and warned a moratorium might lead to unintended consequences.

“This is too rash,” Cimino said. “We have a policy that if it was followed, we wouldn’t have gotten to this boiling point.”

Cimino proposed increasing fines for violations and fining on the first violation.

Manguso agreed that increasing the fees could be helpful, but she said that could happen in conjunction with a moratorium, adding that increasing violation fees doesn’t address the influx of new rentals.

“Today it’s different, and today I think we need to stop and decide if we want 1,000 or 1,200 (short-term rentals) in Grand County,” she said.

Commissioners also discussed limiting the total number of short-term rentals, restricting to commercial zoning and capping rental capacity.

County Manager Ed Moyer suggested permit fees could be raised to reflect any costs for enforcement the county shoulders, and commissioners seemed amiable to the idea.

The board is expected to take up the topic again on Aug. 3, during which there could include more discussion on a possible moratorium.

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