Eagle County staff working through ideas to impose short-term rental regulations
A program could be in place by this fall
The Eagle County Commissioners are taking a hard look at short-term rental regulations.
The Eagle County Commissioners Tuesday heard a presentation from representatives of Economic & Planning Systems and RRC Associates. Both Front Range-based consulting firms have for years worked in mountain resort areas.
Going over data about how many short-term rentals are in the unincorporated areas of the county, Rachel Shindman of Economic & Planning Systems, said much of the data came from a service that tracks online ads for properties listed on Airbnb, VRBO and similar services.
Unsurprisingly, Shindman said the bulk of the county’s short-term rentals are in Beaver Creek, with others in Arrowhead and Cordillera. There are fewer such rentals in neighborhoods including Homestead and Riverwalk. Those rentals are most active in winter months.
With data in hand, the Commissioners have a few options, including simple licensing to imposing standards and fees, along with enforcement.
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Commissioner Matt Scherr said licensing could be helpful, from collecting appropriate sales and lodging taxes to ensuring that rentals meet health and safety standards.
Shindman said basic fees should cover the cost of a licensing program. Any program will require additional staff time, as well as tracking and other software. Owners would pay those fees at the time of registration.
Other options include whether to rely on self-certification or inspections. Another decision will be whether to impose a flat fee or vary those fees in different areas.
Economic & Planning Systems managing principal Andrew Knudtsen said covering the county’s costs can require modest fees, although those fees can increase as a regulatory system becomes more complex.
Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney said she’d prefer a simple fee that covers the county’s costs. But, Scherr said, the county should “overestimate” the program’s costs.
Registering short-term rentals could also include fees to mitigate some workforce housing costs.
Knudtsen said there could be both a registration fee and a fee to address workforce impacts, although property owners would write one check to cover both.
Shindman said those fees could be as much as $2,600 per year for a two-bedroom unit. Even at half that amount, the program could generate as much as $3 million per year for housing programs.
Knudtsen noted that many communities try to balance what the free market can do against the need for local government intervention. But, he added, there’s no location in Eagle County where the free market can perform to provide workforce housing.
But County Finance Director Jill Klosterman noted fees can bring unintended consequences. Owners who find fees too high will cost the county both sales and lodging taxes. The county could also lose lodging beds and increase the number of units sitting vacant.
Still, McQueeney and Scherr — Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry was out of town — seemed to favor more information on higher fees.
McQueeney noted that Steamboat Springs received a lot of negative public comment when it was considering its short-term rental licensing and fees. But, she added, the program so far hasn’t seemed to affect occupancy.
Work on the program continues, with Scherr saying he’d like to see a program in place by the fall of this year.