By Clayton Chaney
At a work session held by the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) on Tuesday, June 1, Development Director Pamela Flowers provided the board with data in regard to vacation rental (VR) ownership within the county.
“There’s a lot of things this data can tell us,” Flowers said.
According to Flowers, there are 627 VR properties within the county. Of those, 146, or 23.3 percent, are owned by residents of Archuleta County and 59, or 9.4 percent, are owned by residents of another county within Colorado.
Flowers highlighted other states that VR property owners in Archuleta County reside in.
She noted the states which are home to 10 or more VR property owners in the county:
• Texas: 207.
• New Mexico: 53.
• California: 31.
• Arizona: 30.
• Oklahoma: 20.
• Florida: 15.
She also mentioned there is one VR property owner who resides in Colombia.
The data presented at the work session was accurate as of April, Flowers noted in a later interview.
She explained that the county uses a data software program that gathers information about all active VR advertisements in the county and that not all of those properties are permitted.
She also noted that, as of June 2, the county now has 663 VR properties with active advertisements.
“First, if you think about it, that only 146 residents of our county own short-term rentals, that means the majority of our residents in Archuleta County don’t own short-term rentals,” Flowers said at the work session.
Flowers noted that almost 77 percent of VR property owners reside outside of Archuleta County.
Flowers also mentioned the majority of VR properties are second homes or retirement homes for people.
She noted that 66 VR properties are listed as owner-occupied, meaning that the property owner lives on site at the residence that is being used as a VR.
“So, that means only 66 folks are using the short-term rental program to help pay for their primary home, and that should be treated differently than folks who just have a second home, in my opinion,” Flowers said.
Flowers mentioned that means there are 561 people who “own a home here as a short-term rental, but don’t live here and therefore don’t live in it, so those folks are either second homes or investment homes.”
She went on to opine that it is not the responsibility of the county to make policy that enables people to purchase a retirement or an investment home.
“I propose that a second home or an investment home is really a luxury, it’s not a necessity in life. It’s a great thing if you can do it, but it certainly shouldn’t be our priority in governance to set policy that helps people have second homes. I think the priority should be helping people have their first home,” Flowers suggested.
She also spoke about how VR property owners who reside outside of Archuleta County are not spending their profits in the local economy.
“These owners, they don’t spend those [short-term rental] profits here,” Flowers said.
She noted that VR property owners pay taxes and fees and might hire property managers, cleaners and maintenance crews to take care of their property, “but their profit that they make on that short-term rental is really travel dollars, a portion of travel dollars to this county that is spent someplace else,” Flowers said.
Flowers also mentioned it is “very important to remember these folks don’t vote here.”
“They don’t have to live with the negative impacts of overgrowth or noise or parking and traffic on the roads in their neighborhood because they don’t live in that neighborhood,” Flowers said.
At the end of her presentation, Flowers acknowledged a few questions she noted have arisen over the past few months.
The questions Flowers brought up included, “Whose daily life is most impacted by the Archuleta County [short-term rental] policy?”
To that, she said, “I think it’s the 14,000 residents that don’t own short-term rentals here.”
She then acknowledged the question of who’s relying on the county to hear their voices.
“Again, it’s those 14,000 residents that are trying to maintain a livable neighborhood and have a home here all the time,” Flowers said.
She explained that she will provide the BoCC with more data in the upcoming weeks about the impacts of VR properties on infrastructure within the county and the impacts on the local economy.
“I wanted to point out that, right now, it seems that the county’s policy is unconstrained growth for the [short-term rental] industry. And I think there probably aren’t many other industries in the county where we would allow them to grow unconstrained. So, I think we need to think about what’s the right level of control that we need to put on this to protect the folks that live here because that’s who our primary interest groups should be,” Flowers said.