Summit County Officials Make Decision on Short-Term Rental Caps

October 20, 2022

Summit County officials make decision on short-term rental caps

The Summit County Courthouse in Breckenridge is pictured on the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. It was agreed upon by the Summit Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday’s work session that caps should be used as a part of the approach to regulate short term rentals.
Eiliana Wright/Summit Daily News

In May, the Summit Board of County Commissioners approved a nine-month moratorium that halted short-term rental licenses in neighborhood zones, which is set to expire in February 2023.

Shortly after, the county announced that it would use that time to establish a short-term rental regulation system. They wanted to find a community-based solution, so the county created a timeline of meetings, forums and hearings throughout the summer and fall.

Now five months and many meetings later, the county is one step closer. The commissioners and the planning department agreed that caps will most likely be a part of short-term rental regulations, according to discussion from the commissioners’ work session on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Though nothing is official yet, the conversation on Tuesday indicated that caps will be used, said Summit Planning Department Senior Planner, Jessica Potter.

The decision was agreed upon after commissioners reviewed suggestions made by planning commissions from each of the four Summit County basins. The Ten Mile, Snake River, Upper Blue and Lower Blue basins had planning commissions that looked at public input, commissioner goals and data from the county’s short-term rental questionnaire.

All of that information was used to help the planning commissions make a decision on how each basin should be regulated. Potter said each meeting with the basin planning commissions was robust and thorough. Each one lasted more than three hours.

“We started the conversation with posing to them, ‘What do you envision the future of your basin or your neighborhood to be like?’” said Summit County planning director Jim Curnutte. “‘Here are your current numbers. Do you want to see more than that?’ The answer was pretty much unanimously no from everybody.”

Each basin believed that there should be a cap, but each also had a different opinion about whether there should be a basin-specific cap, or a countywide cap. The basins also had different ideas about the percentage to which their specific area’s short-term rental licenses should be reduced or limited.

Ten Mile, Upper Blue and Snake River basins all agreed that there should be a cap. Lower Blue was the only basin that did not decide. However, Lower Blue did discuss a cap on the Wildernest neighborhood and one for other parts of Lower Blue. Overall, each basin seemed to prefer a basin-specific cap as opposed to a countywide cap on short-term rentals. Snake River was the only basin to suggest both.

Then, each basin was asked to propose the percentage in which a short-term rental cap should be implemented.

Summit County Planning Department /Courtesy photo

Ten Mile said short-term rental licenses should be cut in half. Upper Blue said they should be capped at 12.5%. Lower Blue said the Wildernest neighborhood should be capped at 15% to 27% with a small reduction in the rest of the basin, and the commission floated another idea for an overall Lower Blue basin cap between 10% to 19% with no special cap for Wildernest. Lastly, Snake River said there should be less short-term rentals than there are right now. They suggested that Snake River short-term rentals should be reduced by 8% or more, going as far as no short-term rentals in Snake River overlay zones.

Those answers and suggestions were then presented to county commissioners by the planning department, who asked the commissioners to either agree or disagree with the suggestions so the process could move forward.

The planning department asked the commissioners if they approved of caps in neighborhood overlay zones, whether they should be by basin or countywide and, finally, if the caps should lessen the amount of short-term rental licenses that already exist.

Each Commissioner had the same answer.

Commissioner Josh Blanchard, Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence and Commissioner Tamara Pogue all agreed that there should be a cap on short-term rentals in neighborhood overlay zones, that caps should be per basin and that it was too early to make a decision about the number in which caps should be limited.

“I think that’s really the meat of this whole issue right here — what that number is — so I want to spend a lot more time digging into that.” Lawrence said.

Potter reported that the basins chose the percentages through debate, discussion and an ultimate consensus.

That process, however, made commissioners weary.

“I think that’s what we were trying to avoid this whole time — is picking a number that felt right. Because if that’s the case, I have lots of opinions on what I felt like it should be, but we didn’t go down that road,” Lawrence said.

Pogue agreed that a more thorough strategy should be used to find that perfect number and said she would like to hold out for a more concrete methodology. Blanchard asked questions about whether or not infrastructure, budget, or enforcement went into determining the percentage.

Commissioners did not solidify their ideal percentage, but they did establish that caps will be used in the short-term regulation process — if everything is approved, Potter added.

Even though commissioners are hesitant to announce a specific percentage, Potter said there may not be an ideal way to establish a number.

“I think one of the things that we might ultimately have to accept is there is no perfect methodology that we’re going to get to,” Potter said. “In some way, shape or form, there will be accusations of taking a number in terms of what felt right.”