Vail Town Council still working on how to regulate short-term rentals in town

The town of Vail is proposing an overhaul to existing short-term rental regulations.
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Four facts

• As of Friday, Oct. 20, had more than 300 listings in Vail for a stay between Dec. 1 and Dec. 3.

• Expect the Vail Town Council to see a first-reading version of a regulatory ordinance sometime in November.

• Voters in Crested Butte in November will decide whether or not to impose a 5 percent use tax on short-term rentals in that community.

• A town of Vail-commissioned study showed that as of May, there were more than 1,400 unlicensed short-term rentals in town.

Sources:, town of Vail

VAIL — The Vail Town Council is taking plenty of time to determine how much it should regulate short-term rentals in town.

Council members on Tuesday, Oct. 17, heard a presentation from town finance director Kathleen Halloran, whose department has been working on gathering information for use in a potential new ordinance to regulate those rentals.

Short-term rentals have been a fact of life in Vail almost since the ski area opened in December 1962. But the advent of internet services including VRBO and Airbnb has prompted more owners to put their units on the web. That trend has had a couple of effects: a sizable dent in the long-term rental pool and complaints from neighbors about occasionally disruptive guests in residential neighborhoods.

The town requires anyone in the short-term rental business to get a town business license and pay lodging tax.

That effort has been only somewhat effective. A town-commissioned study showed more than 1,400 represented units didn’t have those licenses. But that study was unable to break down how many cases there were of multiple units owned by the same individual.

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Halloran and her staff have frequently checked in with council members for input about their research.

Current recommendations

Current recommendations include removing the current 14-day threshold for acquiring a business license, establishing a fine structure for violations, requiring owners to provide a local contact for problems and an annual affidavit that a unit has smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, along with other safety equipment.

But community members are split on how much the town should be involved in the business.

Dennis Linn, of East Vail, has spoken to the council more than once about problems he’s had with short-term guests on the other side of his duplex. Linn has asked the council to require a duplex owner to get the neighbor’s permission before short-term renting.

Council member Greg Moffet, who also lives in a duplex, said consent sounds good on the surface but could interfere with property rights.

“I don’t want us to be the good-neighbor police,” Moffet said.

Vail Town Attorney Matt Mire said he’d be hesitant to put the town into the middle of disputes between neighbors. He suggested that a property owner who wants to turn that unit into a short-term rental provide an affidavit that the neighbors had been informed.

Vail resident Stephen Connolly owns a bed and breakfast and has also commented at several town council meetings. Connolly said when he went to the town for a conditional-use permit for his business, he was required to get the consent of his neighbors.

On the other hand, Connolly said, getting permission before going into the short-term rental business could be tricky, suggesting that a complaint-based renewal system might work.

Ensuring due process

In her presentation to the council, Halloran said if regulations are drawn to enable the town to revoke a business license, then a process could be created to track and verify violations.

Town Manager Greg Clifton said town staff is trying to make enforcement relatively simple. Whatever is put into the town code, Clifton said due process for owners will be ensured.

There are good arguments both for and against the idea of short-term rentals.

“What happens when you have a 60- or 70-year-old couple on a fixed income, and they could use an extra $20,000 a year (in rental revenue)?” Connolly asked.

Whatever the town’s regulations look like — we should know in November — Connolly said he believes the town can find a balance.

Short-term rentals “are an important economic generator in our town,” Connolly said. “It can be done in a way that doesn’t negatively impact quality of life.”

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

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