Grand Lake approves new fee structure, including increased short-term rental fees

A screenshot of Grand Lake's Zoom livestream during the Jan. 9 Board of Trustees meeting shows the board and lawyer Brian Blumenfeld (third from right), who the town consults on marijuana regulation, listening to resident Gothard Lane (standing) making a public comment about marijuana legalization in the town.
Kyle McCabe/Sky-Hi News

At its first meeting of 2023, the Grand Lake Board of Trustees updated the town’s fee structure for the first time since 2019. The changes eliminated services the town no longer provides, added new services and updated existing services.

A memo about the changes listed major ones in four categories, the first being planning deposit increases. Town Manager John Crone said the increases reflect the increased costs of mailing out public notices. The memo also mentioned the increased cost of hiring outside professionals to review applications.

Late fees for water bill payments received an update as well, going from 1.5% of the unpaid balance per month to a flat $25 fee. The new fee will better cover costs and should reduce late payments, according to the memo.

“1.5% doesn’t even come close to covering the time that staff has to put in going after late payments,” Crone said. “Especially given the fact that we’ve made it so easy now for people to pay their water bills, see their water bills online.”

Rental of town facilities saw multiple fee updates, starting with the elimination of half-day rentals for the Community House. Crone said the space cannot be turned around fast enough for two groups to use it in the same day, so a half-day rental acts the same as a full-day rental. The Community House also has new fees for using the kitchen ($100) and the audio-visual system ($200, nonprofits excluded). The changes also removed the rental availability for the Pitkin Annex.

Trustees voted Dec. 12, 2022 to create new regulations for short-term rentals. A new fee structure comes with the new regulations, but it had to be approved as part of the town-wide fee structure update.

Previously, the town charged an annual $600 fee per nightly rental license, but the new system bases the fee on occupancy. If a rental houses one to four people, the fee remains $600, but for rentals with an occupancy of five to eight people, it increases to $750 and then to $900 for rentals with an occupancy of more than eight people.

Mayor Steve Kudron said the fee increases must be in line with the impact rentals cause on the community, so he used formulas from a nexus study in Breckenridge to estimate short-term rentals’ effects on Grand Lake’s housing affordability.

“The math was so much more complicated than I thought when I dove into this,” Kudron said. “I discounted both local spending and visitor spending compared to the Breckenridge numbers, so there’s still some things I made up. But a knowledgeable guess, an informed estimate. Legally defensible estimate.”

Kudron said his estimates showed the town could charge $700 to $800 per occupancy unit — meaning a rental with an occupancy of four could be charged $2,800 or more every year. Breckenridge charges $3,199 for a rental with an occupancy of four.

“We want to control nightly rentals,” Kudron said. “We don’t want to shut them down. They do bring money, they do bring visitors, but we want to make it more of a level playing field.”

Other changes included increases to land use application fees, municipal property application fees, building and grading permit application fees, the sign permit application fee and copying and printing fees.

Other business:

  • The board continued discussing marijuana regulations, once again having Brian Blumenfeld, a lawyer who specializes in cannabis, present to the board during its workshop. Blumenfeld said going line by line through a draft ordinance with the board, as opposed to going through an outline first, would save some time. He asked for and received clarification on questions. The board continued to favor a lottery system for choosing applications, giving weight to local applicants within that lottery, having town staff review applications for completeness before the trustees review the content and admit entrants into the lottery.
  • Five public commenters showed their disapproval of marijuana legalization in the town, with some asking the board to not go through with legalizing marijuana sales and some asking the board to regulate dispensaries heavily. Resident Jim Schoenherr spoke briefly in favor of legalizing marijuana sales.
  • Trustees also discussed increasing health care cost coverage for town employees to increase retention during the workshop session.
  • Crone mentioned in his manager’s report that the town’s ice rink will open soon, the town’s Zamboni is set to be replaced next year, and the Ride the Rockies bicycle ride might make a stop in Grand Lake this year.
  • Trustees approved the accounts payable for Jan. 9 and meeting minutes from Dec. 12, 2022.
  • The board approved a resolution to post notifications of public meetings at the Post Office and at town hall. State law requires the town to approve the posting locations every year.
  • An approved resolution will update the rules and regulations of the Grand Lake Cemetery, including changes to burial vault requirements and a change disallowing burial services on Sundays and federally recognized holidays.
  • Trustees approved a resolution authorizing Kudron, Crone and town clerk Alayna Carrell as designees for the town’s safe deposit box.
  • The board approved an increase in purchase authorization for staff from $500 to $1,000, which is less than the $2,500 mark staff requested.
  • An approved bid will direct the mayor to sign a contract with Michael’s Audio, a local AV company, to redo the AV setup in the town’s boardroom for $23,213.85.
  • Kudron mentioned that the U.S. Census Bureau now considers Grand Lake an urban area after the bureau changed its criteria for urban communities to include minimum housing units, which accounts for vacation homes as well as full-time residents. Crone will look into how the change could affect the town.
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