County to consider code changes for vacation rental permits

10

By Clayton Chaney
Staff Writer

At an Archuleta County Planning Commission meeting held on March 24, the commission discussed and approved some changes to the county’s Land Use Regulations in regard to vacation rental permitting.

Development Director Pamela Flowers presented the proposed changes to the planning commission. 

She highlighted a couple of items under section 3.2.7.6, Approval and Effect, which includes a 45-day inspection window of properties upon permit approval.

Flowers has spoken at previous planning commission and county commissioner meetings about lacking the resources needed to perform property inspections. 

However, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) recently approved funds for the Planning Department to add two additional code enforcement officers to its staff.

Flowers indicated during the planning commission meeting that with the addition of the two code enforcement officers, her department will be able to keep up with property inspections.

Also included in the Approval and Effect section is that a property may be reinspected within 14 calendar days “after a complaint is received regarding violations of these Land Use Regulations to determine complaint validity.”

Flowers also highlighted section 5.5.6.3, which is the Performance Standards section for vacation rental standards. 

In this section, 5.5.6.3(1), it is noted that, “The owner of a Vacation Rental shall either be present within a distance of sixty (60) miles of the property, or shall employ a Property Manager or Caretaker within that distance who shall be on call 24 hours a day to respond to the property as needed to alleviate complaints regarding violations of these standards, County Ordinances, or neighborhood rules and covenants.”

This section also addresses density limits of vacation rentals in subdivisions. 

In section 5.5.6.3(3) it is noted that, “The number of dwellings permitted as Vacation Rentals shall be limited by density to preserve community character and encourage more equal distribution of Vacation Rentals throughout the county.”

Section 5.5.6.3(3)(a) notes that for major subdivisions, containing four or more lots or parcels, “Vacation Rentals shall not exceed a number equal to 5% of the total number of lots.”

The 5 percent rule also applies to condominiums and townhome complexes.

For minor subdivisions, containing fewer than four lots or parcels, only one active vacation rental permit is allowed.

Another change proposed by Flowers was in section 5.5.6.3(5)(a), which deals with vacation rental advertisements. 

In this section it is noted that “All ads must include the Vacation Rental Permit/Account Number.”

Flowers also highlighted section 5.5.6.3(10), which notes that every vacation rental property will be equipped with an identification sign noting that the property is a vacation rental.

Flowers explained that there will be no additional costs paid by the property owners for the sign as the costs would be absorbed into the recently approved county fee schedule. However, the section states, “if the sign is lost, stolen, or damaged, it must be replaced by the property owner within 10 days, at the fee found in the approved County Fee Schedule.”

Archuleta School District Superintendent Dr. Kym LeBlanc-Esparza gave public comment at the end of the meeting in which she praised the planning commission on the work it is doing.

“Through my lens as superintendent, as I’m hearing you talk through this, I have to say thank you for the limitations that you are placing on the number of units,” LeBlanc-Esparza said.

She explained housing in the county is simply not affordable for many people working in the school district, which makes it difficult to attract and retain quality educators in the community.

Community member Henry Zabielinsky also spoke in support of limiting vacation rentals in the community.

He explained that he comes from Miami Beach, Fla., where he has seen and experienced the troubles of allowing vacation rentals in residential areas.

“I’m happy to see the limitations that you are beginning to install and I think it’s going to help. My beef is, why have they allowed short term rentals in residential areas?” he said.

Zabielinsky mentioned that vacation rentals do not offer much to the community as a whole.

“My opinion is, short-term rentals are a cancer on this community and they really only benefit the property owners … and they’re basically conducting a business in a residential area, which is contrary to what is allowed.”

Although the changes were approved by the planning commission, Flowers will still need to present the changes to the BoCC for final approval.

A complete version of the proposed changes to the county’s Land Use Regulations can be found at: https://www.archuletacounty.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/9104?fileID=7236. 

Flowers indicated that the changes will be presented at the next regular BoCC meeting, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on April 6. Login information for the meeting will be available at: https://www.archuletacounty.org/agendacenter.

HOA authority

Multiple members of the public also spoke at the end of the planning commission meeting questioning the role homeowners associations (HOAs) have with limiting vacation rentals.

Flowers explained that HOAs may have the authority to establish their own rules and covenants which can rule that vacation rentals are not allowed in the subdivision. 

However, she noted that even if an HOA rules that it will not allow any vacation rentals in its subdivision, that will not prevent the county from issuing a vacation rental permit.

She explained that it would be up to the HOA to amend its covenants to restrict vacation rentals.

Flowers also noted that currently under Colorado state law, short-term rentals are not defined as businesses.

clayton@pagosasun.com