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Boulder County looking to revamp codes for short-term rentals

 

November 13, 2019 | View PDF



The Boulder County land use code is a document that is often updated. When the county commissioners approved new policies for housing in October, it seemed to be an appropriate time to consider regulations regarding short-term rentals given that those have not been updated since 2008. A survey was sent out Monday, Oct. 28 and will be open through Nov. 22 for Boulder County residents to share their opinions with the county regarding how the regulations should be updated.

Short-term rentals are those which are rented for less than 30 days at a time--many of these rentals are Airbnbs or VRBO rental locations. Interest in updating these codes came about, not only due to an increase of inquiries about them, but also because of an increase of focus on housing availability recently. As such, the Boulder County Land Use Department wants to simplify the code so that it is easily understandable as to potential personal impacts as well as those to their properties.

“Our position, at this point, is that, as staff and county commissioners, we feel they should be regulated, and what that regulation exactly looks like is a process. Our job as staff is to really listen to the wide-ranging needs and concerns of the community and to regulate safety and welfare... We’re really trying to balance all those factors and it might be that the resulting regulations differ because the county is such a diverse area,” said land use planner Christy Wiseman.

She further explained that the survey, which already has had more than 300 responses, is just one element that will go into the department’s recommendation that will be sent to the county commissioners. They also have done extensive research looking at other communities both within and outside of Colorado to determine what types of requirements should or should not be included.

For example, the survey asks county residents if minimum rental periods should be implemented, because it has been a condition of approval that has been added to recent applications, however, they are not currently in place on a larger scale.

“It’s [the survey] a good way to do a temperature check, it’s a very important one and will help with how they [the county commissioners] approach the action taken,” Wiseman said.

This temperature check seems to be hovering around lukewarm in Niwot. In speaking with a few local residents, it does not seem as though short-term rentals are immediately affecting the town. While there are some listings, such as one in Somerset that appear to be large “party houses,” others seem to be as casual as a bed and breakfast.

“I have people who stay at my inn who say they don’t like Airbnb because they feel like they’re staying in other people’s homes; other people say they want a hotel feel. Different people look for different situations,” said Cornelia Sawle, owner of the Niwot Inn and Spa. She stayed firm to her belief that as long as your actions don’t disturb others, like neighbors, restrictions to property use is unnecessary.

On the other hand, perhaps regulations might be helpful. “I just have mixed emotions about it,” said Pat Murphy of Niwot Real Estate. “I can see some people can get extra income for it. [But] There might be some sort of regulations because there have been some accidents.” To her point about accidents, it is worth noting that on Nov. 6th, Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb announced, “By 12/15/20, every home and host on Airbnb will have been reviewed, with the objective to verify 100% of listings.” This came after five people were killed at a Halloween party hosted at an Airbnb in California.

However, Sawle’s opinion was somewhat echoed by Osmosis owner Anne Postle, who said, “I’m in favor of people being able to use their homes in ways that can benefit them and the community.” She further suggested that if restrictions were to be put in place, it should be up to HOAs, but not the county.

Once the survey closes, the Land Use Department staff will analyze the data obtained from the surveys--so they encourage as many residents as possible to fill it out so that they get a comprehensive picture of the community’s thoughts. From the analyzed data, the department will outline a number of different paths for regulation and anticipates having community meetings and even a drafted referral that people can comment on for specific draft language before sending it to the commissioners.

However, the meetings and drafts most likely will not begin until the beginning of 2020. Between carefully sifting through the data, compiling potential regulatory options and the holidays, the department will be busy. “We want to make sure we take time with this process with the resources we have,” said Wiseman.

 
 

Reader Comments
(1)

eclecticread23 writes:

A relevant article give that there has been an increase in short-term rentals to address issues such as housing availability as well as a need for many to supplemental their income through options like Airbnb. However, short-term rentals raise concerns for community ambiance, and environmental protection in the foothills and historic sites. I encourage others to take this survey as number of thoughtful considerations are raised. Thank you for bringing this survey to our attention.

 
 
 

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