Vail residents split on the benefits and drawbacks of short-term rentals

Vail's current short-term rules require unit owners to buy a business license from the town and to pay sales and lodging taxes for every night a unit is rented. Those rules now are among the most lax of resort communities.
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What’s next?

Vail town staff will present possible new regulations and policies for short-term rentals at the council’s Sept. 5 meeting.

VAIL — Whatever new rules and policies about short-term rentals the Vail Town Council eventually adopts, two things are clear: The process will take time, and people will be upset.

The council Tuesday faced a full room of people who are roughly split on the benefits of short-term rentals in town. While homeowners have rented rooms and units about as long as Vail has existed, more owners are using online services including VRBO and Airbnb, and the proliferation of online rentals has some residents grumbling.

At Tuesday’s meeting, longtime resident Joe Staufer told the council that issuing business licenses for lodging in residential neighborhoods has affected the quality of life for full-time residents.

“Short-term rentals in residential districts should not be allowed,” Staufer said. “If a guy wants to protect his investment, then rent (a unit) to an employee who’s here year-round. … We’re destroying our community with business licenses in residential districts.”

East Vail resident Penny Wilson said the town should require local contact numbers for short-term rental units.

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Wilson added that neighbors should be allowed to provide input on business license renewals for short-term rentals.

Other residents, though, said they depend on short-term rental business.

Tania Boyd told the council she’s offered the second bedroom in her condo as a short-term rental for a few years.

“I had no idea of the friends I’d make,” Boyd said, adding that online rentals can be a more affordable option for people who’d like to come to Vail, but can’t otherwise afford rooms.

Nate Agnini told council members the short-term rental business is the reason he and his wife were able to afford to buy a home.

“It’s made a big difference for us,” Agnini said.

Travis Coggin said he’s received a lot of positive feedback from renting out his unit when he’s out of town.

Coggin told the council that the town needs to find a balance for both residents and those who rent their units. Perhaps, he said, the town could put lodging tax revenue into a fund to help develop more long-term rentals in town.

Vail resident Steve Pope acknowledged that the council has a hard job to find some sort of balance. Pope said he supports “reasonable regulations,” along with enforcement to ensure the town is receiving the tax revenue it should.

Those things can preserve both the economic benefits and the full-time resident community, he said.

“This is a tough one,” council member Jenn Bruno said. “I don’t think anyone (spoke) who didn’t have a valid point.”

Bruno said she isn’t sure the council can find a “right” answer to the issue, but added she believes a solution more acceptable to more people can be found.

While a number of people called for tighter regulations and closer work with homeowner associations, council member Dick Cleveland said the town’s role is fairly limited.

“Our role is to regulate, mitigate problems and ensure those who (rent units) do so safely,” he said.

Finding that balance is going to take some time. Mayor Dave Chapin cited a recent Outside magazine story about Crested Butte’s struggles with short-term rentals, noting that it took that town’s government nine public meetings to craft regulations.

Chapin said he believes Vail can act a little more quickly, adding that he’d like to see new rules and regulations in place by the time the town’s new fiscal year begins on Jan. 1, 2018.

One thing that won’t happen is any sort of ban on short-term rentals.

“We’re talking about property here,” council member Greg Moffet said, adding that interfering with property rights is a sure way to open the town up to litigation.

“We need to step very carefully on this,” Moffet said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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