Carbondale to look at possible regs, tax on short-term rentals
The town of Carbondale is preparing to jump into the growing valleywide debate over short-term vacation rentals and their impact on the local rental housing market.
And, not just private home rentals of less than 30 days that tend to cater more to tourists as an option to hotels and other lodging.
A new advocacy group in Carbondale also wants the town to consider regulating so-called medium-term rentals — houses, condos or accessory units rented for a limited number of months at a time, but are not part of the long-term rental market.
During a 2-½-hour-long meeting on Dec. 21, the Carbondale Board of Trustees heard from representatives of Community First Carbondale, which formed last summer to address what it sees as an unhealthy proliferation of short- and medium-term rentals in the town.
The problem, group member Kevin Rayes said, is that tying up so many units in that way is having the effect of displacing local workers, including newcomers and long-time residents alike.
“A common cause brought us all together,” Rayes said. “This is a problem that’s chipping away at the authenticity that makes our valley unique.”
It’s also unfair to permanent residents in neighborhoods where a house next door all of a sudden becomes a hotel with people coming and going and creating other impacts, he said.
Rayes was joined by some fairly recent arrivals and others who grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley, left for a while, and then have found it difficult to return and reestablish roots due to the housing crunch.
“I love Carbondale, but I do not feel like Carbondale loves me,” said one five-year resident who spoke at the meeting and identified himself only as Drew.
“It’s hard to stand up for the renters,” he said.
While the tight rental market that’s punctuated by increasing rents and exorbitant costs to buy a house has been an issue for years, a relatively new phenomenon that grew out of the pandemic is the move toward medium-term, or temporary rentals, Rayes said.
“With the ability to work remotely, individuals are renting properties for periods of time that exceed the definition of a short-term rental,” the group said in a written presentation to the town board.
That has served to create a “donut-hole” effect, where housing is occupied by a revolving door of out-of-town renters who have no intention of establishing themselves, and from whom no lodging tax is collected, they said.
Carbondale now looks to join other Roaring Fork Valley communities in taking up the discussion and consider some measures to keep things in check.
The town requests collection of the local lodging tax on nightly stays for units rented through Airbnb, VRBO and other vacation rental platforms.
However, Carbondale does not have a fee-based licensing process and does not collect any extra fees or taxes, as Glenwood Springs and other mountain towns now do.
The city of Aspen recently imposed a moratorium on new short-term rental applications — which is being challenged by a citizens initiative — in an effort to get a handle on the proliferation of such units.
Pitkin County is also considering an ordinance regulating short-term rentals, and the Snowmass Village council is reviewing its policies.
One concern in Carbondale is that, while it hasn’t happened to a large degree yet, outside real estate investors are being courted to buy up available housing units and turn them into vacation rentals, Rayes said.
Community First Carbondale proposes, in addition to a higher tax on short- (STR) and medium-term (MTR) rentals, also limiting them to accessory dwelling units or a portion of the main house where an owner lives as their primary address.
That would be in a nod to those existing residents who use such rentals as a means to allow them to continue to live in Carbondale, according to the group’s proposal.
Also, “only a natural person can apply for a STR permit, and cannot hold more than one permit concurrently,” the group proposes in an effort to prevent real estate enterprises from coming into the local STR market.
The group also proposes to limit MTRs to homes that are not used as a primary residence, with a cap of two medium-term rentals per year, per dwelling.
One local resident who manages STRs as a business opposed the move, noting that most of her clients are second-home owners who, without the short-term option, wouldn’t put their home on the long-term rental market.
“The house would just sit empty” when the owners aren’t there, she said.
However, she said she would support an appropriate tax and licensing process for STRs.
STRs also provide employment for house cleaners, maintenance workers and other support, she noted.
Trustees were generally open to the idea of considering the group’s proposal, and acknowledged addressing challenges associated with vacation rentals are a priority for the town. But some trustees also suggested the town take it a little bit at a time and maybe focus on STRs first, and not delve into MTRs right away.
The town may also look at provisions to prevent workforce housing units from being converted into short-term rentals in the future.
A proposed ordinance related to regulating short-term rentals could be on the town board’s table by March, per the direction of trustees after the Dec. 21 meeting.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
It’s About Time history photo: Winter escape hatch
Hip Roof Camp, located at the top of the Mitchell Creek trail in West Glenwood, served as a sawmill. The window on the roof was used when the snow got too high to exit the main door.
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