No STR moratorium yet |

No STR moratorium yet

County commissioners put off vote while eyeing heightened enforcement

A map of the Fraser area showing registered and unregistered short-term rentals in unincorporated Grand County. The Board of Grand County Commissioners delayed a vote on a short-term rental moratorium due to push back from rental owners and operators.
Grand County Government

After hearing stiff opposition to a proposed short-term rental moratorium, the Board of Grand County Commissioners delayed a vote on pausing new licenses.

On Tuesday, commissioners picked up a discussion they started July 27 about stopping new short-term rental licenses to allow the county time to re-evaluate its policies and fees. Over half of the short-term rentals being advertised in unincorporated Grand County were found to be operating illegally.

Several property management companies and short-term rental owners pushed back against the proposed moratorium, saying it would severely hurt the short-term rental industry, as they questioned why it was needed.

“You don’t have a short-term rental problem, you have an enforcement problem,” said Robert Blay, owner of vacation rental company Stay Winter Park. “To punish the entire industry because of a few bad apples, so you guys can figure it out, just doesn’t make sense.”

Commissioner Rich Cimino was adamantly opposed to a moratorium, but Commissioners Kris Manguso and Merrit Linke were leaning in favor of one.

The proposed moratorium comes County Planner Taylor Schlueter told commissioners there are about 915 active short-term rentals in unincorporated Grand County, with 493 units unregistered.

However, Schlueter also said he didn’t feel a moratorium was needed, noting that since July 29, two days after the commissioners first discussed a moratorium, the county has received 65 new applications for licenses. To Schlueter it’s a sign that other enforcement may be more effective than a moratorium.

Still Linke said he felt the moratorium was needed to give the county time to address compliance issues, such as rentals being unlicensed or violations concerning noise, trash and parking.

“Why are we getting so many complaints and so many people not registering,” he said. “The point of this whole conversation is not to ban all short-term rentals.”

Most public comments on Tuesday came from people in the short-term rental industry who argued that enforcement could happen without a moratorium. Many offered to work with the county on compliance issues, pleading that stopping new licenses would hurt compliant units looking to renew licenses.

Though commissioners suggested a moratorium wouldn’t hurt renewals, the county doesn’t have a separate renewal process. Instead, each unit must get a new permit each year. According to Schlueter, a 90-day moratorium would affect about 120 permit renewals.

Another idea posed by Manguso was to exempt compliant units from the proposed moratorium, noting that her goal was to punish noncompliant rentals.

“By placing a moratorium, it’s punitive to those people who are noncompliant,” she said. “I also think a moratorium would allow us time to fix those fees — we need to raise the fees. I can’t believe I’m saying it either.”

Manguso has said she favors individual property rights, but the situation has become so dire that it’s impacting the rights of others and driving community members away.

Some rental owners and managers weren’t totally opposed to an exemption, but they urged commissioners to enforce existing policies first. Kyle Jenkins, an employee of Winter Park Escapes, said many rental owners and operators may not be aware they are out of compliance because the county has not reached out to them.

Commissioners indicated they had received support for the moratorium, but only one person spoke at the meeting against short-term rentals and their impact on the community. Much of the discussion focused on enforcement issues, though the conversation often weaved into larger discussions about short-term rentals’ effect on the community, specifically the housing crisis.

“I think compliance is an issue, but we also have to worry about the degradation of our community and driving out people who live,” county resident Katie Hearsum said. “I definitely don’t want to ban STRs and I’m not saying a moratorium is the right answer, but I would really encourage you while you’re reviewing policies and considering raising fees to figure out a long-term housing solution.”

Ultimately, commissioners agreed to delay voting on a moratorium for 30 days and resume discussions on Sept. 7. Before that meeting, Linke and Manguso said they want more information about compliance concerns and suggestions for how those issues might be dealt with.

Despite agreeing to delay the vote, Manguso indicated she likely would not change her opinion, adding that she hoped to use the moratorium to update the county’s policies around short-term rentals, including increasing fees for rentals and potentially limiting the zoning where the rentals are allowed.

“I have done a total 180 on (short-term rental policies) … what I’m seeing has changed my mind on this,” she said. “I’m probably still going to want a moratorium in 30 days, but I want all the facts. I think zoning is going to come into this. I think we need to start looking at where we’re going to allow these, zone wise.”

Another planned workshop on short-term rentals for later in August has been postponed until the Sept. 7 meeting. Cimino requested the moratorium be drafted before the meeting to include the terms and the board agreed.

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