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Thread: Best way to allow short term rentals?

  1. #1
    Member blevy's avatar
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    Best way to allow short term rentals?

    I am wondering if anyone has an opinion on the best way to regulate short term vacation rentals, either by conditional or special use permit, or by uniform short term use regulations.

    Controversy is brewing in the small mountain town where I sit on the planning commission. This summer our town manager sent out cease and desist notices to four owners of single family homes listed on VRBO because the town's land use code does not list short term rentals as a use by right in the residential district. Accordingly, one of the home owners submitted a special use permit application so that he could continue to rent his property to vacationers. Against the recommendations of the town attorney and the town manager, the board approved the special use permit with a slew of conditions in order to mitigate any negative impact to the surrounding residents. The attorney and the manager are against allowing any commercial uses in the residential zone district until uniform regulations are adopted, even though there already exists a process for approving special use permits. So, should the the little town of 250 spend its resources developing short term rental regulations, or should it let the other 3 property owners apply for special use permits (did I mention that the town doesn't license businesses?)?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    What you describe is not much different from what planners in college towns deal with. Check out the ordinances in a couple of the college towns in your state for sample language. You may want to consider periodic inspections, requirements for adequate parking, maximum occupancy, etc., as a means of assurin neighbors that the property will not become run down, or a location where rowdy renters disturb residents.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    I'm always leery when municipalities of any size attempt to regulate what can and cannot be rented. We regulate single family, but I personally think it's always wrong to say "that home cannot be rented".

    With that said, I gather that this is different; these are short-term rentals of the homes for vacationers. Not unlike condos at mountain resorts, etc. I don't have any experience with that sort of thing, but it sounds to me like the special use permit was the right tack. Just my opinion.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  4. #4
    Member blevy's avatar
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    Great feedback! I personally hate the idea of empty homes, whether it's short or long term occupancy. And I personally can't tell the difference between short term renters and part time owner occupied summer people. They all come to our quiet little town to party while on vacation whether they own or not.

    So if SUPs are the way to go, do you think the town could get in trouble if it assigns different conditions to different short term rental properties?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    I think unless there is some reason for difference - like a second or sub-category - then you really need them treated the same. Equal Protection, you know? I think Cardinal is right on, I would check the college towns nearby. Provo, UT near my home-base has some regs that might be useful, but you should look for something in CO first. Good luck, Blevy.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  6. #6
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    oh yeah, I know all about vacation rentals

    we have a convuluded method of dealing with vacation rentals - the policy was created in a series of hotly debated sessions between the Council and the Planning Board facilitated by a professional facilitator that worked in the middle east who I respect greatly but failed and then a college professor, also a professional I love dearly who also could not get agreement and then yours truly finished it off (they loosened the jar for me) - not a pretty process, but this is what they agreed upon:
    • if you can claim your home as your homestead (basically, do you give out Halloween candy, but legally, 6 months plus one day) you can do it as your God-given right with a one time permit, 10 dollar fee
    • if it is not your homestead, you can do it in certain districts (ones that allow some other transient accommodation) with a registration and one time inspection
    • you can be grandfathered if you rent at least 2 weeks a year (the IRS standard) and thus those folks must register annually and rent or they lose their non-confomity rights (an anomoly)
    • we sunsetted units that are part of a 5 or more units on a lot (condo's and apartments) in residential districts (we are in court for this one)

    The Council is scared of the lawsuits so we are heading to Town Meeting in June to have the use be allowed freely in all districts with a permit and one time inspection - it is a controversial issue as you can guess so it's not clear if it will pass

    if you want particulars and links, pm me

  7. #7
    Member blevy's avatar
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    Dang! I'm glad to hear we're not the only messed up town.

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