Residents oppose, county approves short-term rental fee change |

Residents oppose, county approves short-term rental fee change

Short-term rentals were again a hot topic of debate this week as the Grand County Board of Commissioners debated and ultimately approved a change in the fee structure for the lodging accommodations, establishing an annual “pillow fee” for the rentals.

During a nearly three-hour public hearing Tuesday, commissioners discussed a new fee structure to be applied to short-term rental permit applications in unincorporated Grand County. But the bulk of the hearing was taken up by a lengthy public comment period, with commissioners hearing comments from over a dozen citizens.

The majority of those who addressed the commissioners were opposed to any increases in fees and were predominately owners of short-term rentals or members of related industries such as property management, real estate or tourism marketing.

Catherine Ross, executive director of the Fraser & Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, expressed opposition on behalf of the chamber to the raising of any fees.

“The Chamber does not feel this is the right time to raise the fees,” Ross told commissioners. Instead, Ross suggested to the commission that a working group could be put together to further examine the issue.

Others who spoke out against raising fees stressed the value that the rentals provide to Grand County in terms of revenues; the sales taxes remitted to the county by short-term rentals were highlighted more than once. Opponents said they believed any increase would be onerous and could potentially reduce the number of short-term rentals in the county. More than one individual referred to a fee increase as a “punishment.”

Three individuals, all property owners in Grand County who do not operate short-term rentals, spoke in favor of an increased fee structure, highlighting concepts of fairness as well as fiscal responsibility.

“Any future tax increase or reductions of county services to offset the costs of the short-term rental program is not going to be embraced by the registered voters of Grand County,” claimed area resident Stan Spencer.

Commissioner Kris Manguso opposed raising fees for short-term rentals, saying she preferred to table the decision for another year.

“Let this group get together and come back to us with something that works for both sides,” she said.

But Commissioners Merrit Linke and Rich Cimino both supported changes to the fee structure.

Linke repeatedly referenced figures from county staff that showed the county has spent more than it brings in for the short-term rental program, spending on items such as administrative costs, staff time and monitoring software. He proposed increasing the annual fee by $100, to $250, to help offset costs.

Cimino opposed a flat fee and instead proposed a variable fee structure based on the number of accommodations each short-term rental advertises, called a “pillow count.” The new permit fee structure, of $25 per pillow, was approved with Cimino and Linke voting in favor and Manguso voting against.

The annual “pillow fee” is paid at the time of application for an annual permit and is based on maximum number of occupants. So a short-term rental that can accommodate four people would pay $100 for a permit each year. The average maximum accommodations for short-term rentals in unincorporated Grand County is 9.4, according to county data.

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