After months of discussing the best way to manage short-term rentals in Avon, the Town Council passed the first reading of an ordinance that would enact increased fees as well as implement minimal management requirements for the properties.
The town began looking into short-term rentals last fall and has been working through and discussing a variety of options through the spring. Those options ranged from possibly changing its short-term rental overlay district, implementing a moratorium or cap on licenses, and more.
The goal of the town with these different options is “to reduce or minimize the rate of conversion of long term residential use to short term residential rentals and to preserve existing residential housing stock that is appropriate for long term residential use,” according to its recently drafted mission statement on the matter.
On Tuesday night, the Town Council took its first major step toward reaching this goal when it passed the first reading of a new ordinance, which does two primary things.
First, this ordinance establishes minimum management requirements for the properties, which the town hopes will increase the safety of these rentals. And secondly, it sets up a tiered fee structure, which is meant to help cover the costs of the new administration practices as well as promote the availability of community housing.
Currently, in order for a short-term rental to be operated in the town, property owners must only acquire an annual business license that has a flat fee of $75. This flat fee also applies to the town’s numerous “front-desk managed” properties — such as Beaver Creek West, The Ascent, the Riverfront Lodge, and more — where only one business license is required for all units within that property.
The new ordinance not only increases these fees but also creates a tier of fees based on the type and size of the unit. One of the reasons the town pursued these differentiations is to create more equity between types of properties — namely the front desk versus individual homeowners and resident-occupied rentals — by moving from a one-size-fits-all approach to something that reflects the variety of the rental inventory in town.
The matter of resident-occupied short-term rentals is something that has come up in nearly all of the council’s discussions on the matter as the council strives to protect those that use these rentals as a way to achieve affordability in the current housing market.
“A long-term tenant oftentimes needs help paying his or her rent and therefore wants to short-term rent out the second bedroom instead of having a long-term tenant full time,” said Council member Tamra Underwood at the April 26 meeting. “It’s for the people that are trying to afford to live here in a long-term condo.”
The ordinance as currently written defines a resident-occupied short-term rental as “any residential property for which a full-time resident resides” as their primary residence, where they rent at least a portion of that residence for fewer than 30 days.
The fee structure, as passed in the first reading, is as follows:
- Resident-occupied: $150
- Front desk or managed for a timeshare: $250 plus $25 for each bedroom in the property that is used as a short-term rental
- All other short-term rentals:
- Studio or one-bedroom unit: $350
- Four-bedroom unit or bigger: $500
These fees are a step down from previous iterations of the ordinance — which were initially proposed as between $500 to $1,500 — at the request of the council.
“The proposed fees are intended to be able to cover the staff administration to implement the new management requirement,” said Town Manager Eric Heil.
The hope is also that with the new fee structure, the town will be able to collect more accurate data on the growth and inventory of short-term rentals in town. This data collection will also be aided by a new application for the short-term rental license. The idea is that the data will help guide future discussions on short-term rentals and the housing crisis.
Minimum management requirements
Additionally, the ordinance sets out a number of short-term rental management requirements for license holders to uphold. The license holders will also be required to sign an affidavit affirming compliance with the rules.
These requirements include:
- A management contact person that is able to respond to urgent matters
- Smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and fire extinguishers
- Maximum occupancy on two persons per bedroom and loft area plus two persons
- Wood burning fireplaces and stoves that are cleaned on an annual basis
- Continued general maintenance including but not limited to all plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, and operation of doors and windows
- The existence of a legal, off-street parking space
- Provided service for trash and recycling removal located on the property
- License holders must communicate that noise disturbances aren’t permitted before 8 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
- License holders must communicate that nuisances aren’t tolerated
- The property must be accurately represented where listed
- License holders shall provide renters this list
The town’s community development department will oversee complaints and violations of these new requirements, as well as administer the licenses. According to the ordinance, violations and non-compliance with the requirements will be investigated and potentially result in non-action, warning, fine, suspension or revocation of a license.
The main goal of these new requirements is to create a baseline of safety requirements for guests of the short-term rentals.
“For the fire district, it’s really about the life safety of our guests and our visitors and it’s something that we just need to make sure is managed,” said Mick Woodworth, fire marshal for Eagle River Fire Protection District, at the May 24 Town Council meeting when discussing these minimum requirements.
This particular ordinance may face some — largely non-substantive — changes before it returns in front of the Town Council during its July 26 meeting. All current short-term license holders and residents will be notified ahead of this public hearing and be able to provide comments on the new fees and requirements.
However, this might not be the end of new regulations and policies in the town for short-term rentals. Council has referred several other options for regulation to its Planning and Zoning Commission for input. This includes implementing potential caps on future licenses, changing its rental overlay district, and more.
The ordinance that was first-reading approved does “earmark a place” for language to limit short-term rental licenses in the future, Heil said. Currently, the council has referred this matter to the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Council is expected to pick this ordinance back up at its next meeting on July 26, after which if it passes, the town will begin implementation.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at [email protected]