Short-term rental supporters weigh in on Carbondale regulation discussions; ordinance in the works
Carbondale’s elected officials heard this week from a new group that’s come forward in support of short-term vacation rentals and wants to make sure new regulations aren’t heavy-handed.
In response to the Community First Carbondale (CFC) group that approached the town Board of Trustees last month calling for new taxation and limits on short-term rentals, a group calling itself Carbondale Forward provided its thoughts ahead of a Jan. 18 work session by the trustees.
“It is our assessment that short-term rentals are being used as a scapegoat for the larger and much more complex issue surrounding the nationwide housing shortage,” the group said in its written pitch to the trustees. “A restrictive short-term rental regulation may seem politically expedient now; however, it is shortsighted.”
Imposing such restrictions could also have “potentially disastrous” economic impacts, and even force some long-term residents who rely on short-term rentals for part of their income to consider moving, the group said.
Made up mostly of local property owners who rent their units on the short-term market and managers of such units, the group countered the proposal put forth by CFC.
That proposal, which was the topic of discussion at a lengthy meeting Dec. 21, 2021, would require licensing and impose permitting fees and extra taxes on short-term rentals. It would also restrict the types of units that could be rented for 30 days or less to accessory units or a portion of the property where the owner lives as their primary residence.
CFC, which is made up mostly of local renters, believes the proliferation of short-term rentals takes away from the long-term rental market for area workers and those who want to establish themselves in Carbondale, especially as the vacation rental market becomes more attractive to property owners.
It’s just one of many such debates playing out in resort communities in Colorado and elsewhere around the country, including Aspen, Snowmass Village and unincorporated Pitkin County.
Carbondale trustees said after the December meeting that they would prefer the board write any regulations around short-term rentals, rather than have CFC put its proposal to town voters in a referendum, as it had originally proposed.
Speaking on behalf of Carbondale Forward this week were Jon Flacke and Brittany Hailey. They said they’re not against certain rules for short-term rentals, such as licensing and appropriate taxation.
“We’re just seeking a more balanced solution,” said Hailey, who manages several vacation rentals in the mid-valley region and owns units in Carbondale that she and her husband, Michael Hailey, rent out on a short-term basis.
Currently, according to Carbondale Forward’s analysis, there are only about 35 or 40 active short-term rentals in Carbondale — or about 1.6% of the town’s 2,245 residential units.
Another 382 recently approved units are now built or in the process of being built in town, which should expand the town’s worker housing stock by 17%, the group also points out.
Trustees, during the December meeting, indicated they would also consider putting rules in place to keep any rental units being built in the long-term market.
This week’s meeting spanned nearly 3-1/2 hours, garnering comments on both sides of the contentious issue.
Some spoke to the need to continue to allow short-term rentals as a way for established residents to be able to remain in Carbondale, and for second-home owners to make use of their residences while they are away for long stretches of time.
Others said the presence of short-term rentals in their housing complexes or neighborhoods is a nuisance, and that they drain the pool of available long-term housing.
Trustee Ben Bohmfalk thanked the participants for a robust discussion, and said he learned some new things along the way.
“I feel like this is how policymaking is supposed to work, where we have people coming in with different perspectives,” he said. “You’re informing us, we’re listening, and we’re grappling with this.”
Bohmfalk added that he believes it’s beyond time for a “do-nothing approach,” as the town has taken in the past.
Without action, he said it’s likely CFC would be successful in putting its question on the ballot — a measure Bohmfalk said he believes would pass, given the emotion behind it.
“We have an opportunity here to be deliberative and work through the nuances,” he said, adding that now is the time to have the discussion and put rules in place because the situation is not yet out of control.
“I’m more concerned about what could happen in the future,” he said.
Trustees had initially talked about having an ordinance spelling out the new regulations for short-term rentals by March. The board agreed that schedule may be too aggressive and will more likely have something on the table by summer.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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