Commissioners reject short-term vacation rentals

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By Vicky Gits

The Jeffco commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday morning against allowing homeowners to rent their homes to vacationers and visitors on a short-term basis.

The board quickly dispatched an issue that has been a hot subject at numerous meetings since September when the planning department first proposed the idea of changing the zoning regulations.

Unlike the county commissioners, the planning commission voted 5-2 in favor of allowing short-term rentals, with conditions, at a meeting Dec. 9.

County Commissioners Kathy Hartman and Faye Griffin voted against the rental proposal, and Kevin McCasky voted for the proposed changes in the zoning regulations that would have let the idea go forward.

Although renting homes for less than 30 days at a time is against Jeffco zoning regulations, dozens of homes in Evergreen and Conifer are being offered through Internet sites such as VRBO.com and Homeaway.com. In December, the planning commission passed a resolution that would have made short-term rentals legal with approval of the Board of Adjustment.

Hartman said she had received about two dozen e-mails and letters from people in the mountain community and she was thinking of them when she made her decision.

“They are telling me they don’t want to be a tourist town like Breckenridge and Vail,” Hartman said.

She noted that planning commissioners representing the mountain community, Shirley Johnson and Richard Olson, also opposed the change, as did ENABLE (Evergreen North Area for a Balanced Land-Use Effort).

“I believe they do compete with B&Bs and hotels,” Hartman said. She didn’t think it was fair to allow an industry to crop up that bears only one-third of the tax burden and competes directly with the lodging industry. She also thought the rules would be impossible to enforce.

The decision came after an orderly hour-long public hearing in which 18 people testified, including 11 who were opposed to short-term rentals and seven who were in favor of them.

“I am thrilled,” said Donna Harm, who lives in Evergreen across from a home being used as a short-term rental.

“I am relieved,” said Gail Riley, who is co-owner of Highland Haven Creekside Inn Bed and Breakfast. “I am concerned about my business but more concerned about my industry.

“We aren’t just for couples. We love families, and we take pets,” Riley said in response to claims the hospitality industry isn’t as friendly to families.

Riley testified that she employs 10 to 15 people and has been losing money to the short-term rental industry.

“We comply with every rule and regulation. If you want to be soft-hearted, you should be soft-hearted to our industry,” Riley said.

Other speakers voiced opposition to rentals over safety, parking, loose pets and enforcement issues.

Char Price, who is unemployed and would like to rent out half of her home for income, said she had more trouble with people who rented for a year at a time than people who came for the weekend. “I feel I should be able to do that as a Jeffco resident and prevent such issues as unruly tenants and not be taken to court.”

Evergreen resident Ross Grimes said people with short-term rentals are from out of state and don’t understand the concerns of the neighbors.

“It’s taking from the standard of living that Evergreen offers and those of us who made Evergreen what it is,” Grimes said. “It’s just a crime. These people are violators and want to retrospectively change the rules.”

Contact Vicky Gits at vicky@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Check www.CanyonCourier.com for updates.