Vail Daily column: Unintended consequences of short-term rentals
Editor’s note: This is an edited version of a letter presented to the Vail Town Council.
Greetings town of Vail staff and town of Vail Council members: I recently attended your open house at the town chambers and participated in your short-term renting presentation. I exited from the poster-board presentation and staff commentary with a sense of disappointment and concern.
My perception was that the primary focus of the town of Vail staff was orientated toward collecting sales tax revenue, issuance of business licenses, instituting safety procedures and such.
Frankly, I question the wisdom of the town of Vail staff in issuing business licenses in residential-zoned neighborhoods. My perception of a business license holder is a commercial venture that has stated operating hours, is located in a commercially zoned area and generates people and auto traffic. To be clear, I do not support the concept of allowing a commercial venture in a residential-zoned neighborhood; however, if it is the will of the town of Vail government, then so be it.
Is a commercial operation located in a residential-zoned neighborhood an idea of merit? Is the town of Vail being negligent by disregarding the privacy rights of homeowners and families who live and work in this town? Is it the town and surrounding neighborhood’s obligation to provide beds in our backyards to satisfy the demand for additional lodging, thus exposing its residents to the inherent nuisance and controversial issues associated with short-term rentals? Is the town of Vail inadvertently exposing adjacent property owners to liability issues? Litigation is a huge concern in today’s society.
Short-term rentals are beneficial in several ways, and I support the concept wholeheartedly; however, allowing them to migrate into residential-zoned neighborhoods raises many concerns.
I live with a short-term rental property drive located some 20 feet from my bedroom window and another such property about 100 feet from the front side of my house. I have experienced, firsthand, the nuisance, frustration, anxiety and multitude of related controversial issues inherent with this sort of activity. It is like living in an airport terminal; people coming and going at all hours of the day and night, seven days a week. The rental adjacent to my bedroom has a hot tub on the outside deck, and that is an issue in and of itself.
I urge the town of Vail staff to incorporate language in pending legislation governing short-term rental activities that mitigates the controversies associated with this industry and provides much-needed relief for the residential neighborhoods into which they are allowed to migrate. While it is a fact that a property owner should have the right to utilize his property at his discretion, let us not lose sight of the fact the other surrounding property owners also have rights to be safeguarded. At the top of that list are the right of privacy, the right for peaceful possession of their homes and the right to feel safe without interference from strangers roaming their neighborhoods.
I encourage consideration by staff to require duplex owners wishing to short-term rent in residential-zoned areas to retain a letter of approval from the other duplex half owner, which will be presented to the town of Vail when applying for a business license and renewable each year.
I urge town of Vail staff to limit the number of short-term rental days allowed for duplex owners to 30 days, annually, if the unit half is not his or her primary residence. If the unit is a primary residence for an owner, then the town of Vail sets no restriction on number of short-term rental days he can engage in active short-term rental markets.
This proactive approach provides a win-win for all parties involved; the town of Vail garners sales tax to help fill the coffers, duplex owners and renters who live and work in the town are protected from having their properties morph into mini hotels and airport terminals, duplex owners who are not permanent residents, and wish to rent, are eligible to reap benefits of 30 days of income at peak times, the lodging community benefits because they are usually filled to capacity during peak time periods and, thus, not losing revenue, and the businesses are happy to sell their goods and fill restaurant seats.
In addition, there should be a radius restriction, requiring a specific distance short-term units are located from one another. This measure would greatly mitigate the impact of short-term rentals in a residential-zoned area.
In closing, I would be somewhat remiss if I did not address an unspoken issue that is of paramount importance, the issue of consequence. If the town of Vail allows short-term rental activities, unchecked, in our residential-zoned neighborhoods, then they may be inviting uninvited consequence.
To illustrate my point, it is well-documented that investors and real estate conglomerates are in a frenzy to purchase condos, townhomes and multi dwellings and flip them to short-term rental management. You cannot fault these opportunists; there is a great amount of financial gain from this industry.
Is the number of long-term housing units being taken out of inventory keeping pace with the town’s efforts to employ tax payer dollars to build employee housing? A recent Outside Magazine article stated that due to short-term rental activities in Crested Butte, “long term rentals have dwindled from 43 percent to 24 percent of the housing stock, and in 2016, HomeAway had more than 670,000 ‘room nights’ in Colorado, up 24 percent from 2015.”
A related consequence is the long-term effect short-term rentals have in residential-zoned neighborhoods; as the adjacent homeowners become more antagonized by the nuisance, they will be forced to sell their properties and seek other living quarters. There is a strong likelihood a potential buyer will not be a family wishing to relocate into this neighborhood; they will be discouraged by the surrounding activity of the short-term rentals and their inherent controversies.
One may correctly conclude the new buyer(s) will be interested in purchasing the vacant home and list it with a short-term rental agent … another potential housing unit for a local is removed from inventory.
My conclusion is this: We may well be on our way to creating a new social structure in the town of Vail, neighborhoods with rental beds, an influx of weekly strangers, more uninvited traffic congestion and few hockey moms.
Thank you for the opportunity to present my concerns.
Mike Reid is a Vail resident.