Aspen Council Supports New STR Ordinance on First Reading

Aspen Daily News

The Aspen City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to move an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals to second reading. 

Ordinance 9 is the first of at least two ordinances that the city plans to bring to council before the end of the moratoriums on STRs and residential development, which are set to expire on Sept. 30 and Aug. 8, respectively. Although separate, the moratoriums are related and were put into effect in December in an effort to put a pause on the rapid development and STR activity that Aspen has experienced over recent years. 

The proposed changes would extend all current STR permits through the end of this year and also open the application process for new STR permits on Oct. 1. All permits would need to be renewed on Jan. 1 to be considered valid for 2023. 

“This is the culmination of a couple of years’ worth of discussion with the city council about regulating short-term rentals,” said Phillip Supino, Aspen’s director of community development. “This is a major change.” 

Ordinance 9 would split STR permits into three types and place certain regulations on them. Permits would be non-transferable, meaning they would only be allowed for use by the person to whom they are issued, and could not be transferred to another person, address or legal entity. They also would not be transferable upon sale of the property, and if the property were to change hands, the new owner would need to apply for a new permit if they want to continue using a vacation rental.  

Permits would be split into a classic STR permit, which would be for residential units in eligible zone districts that were not originally intended to be used as a lodge; an owner-occupied STR permit, for residents who plan to reside full-time in their unit while running a vacation rental in the same space; and a lodging-exempt STR permit, which would include condo-hotels and lodges that meet the city’s definition of “lodge.”

Ordinance 9 also would place limits on the occupancy and number of nights each type of STR could be rented. In all cases, the occupancy limit would be two people per bedroom plus one — thus, a two-bedroom unit could house up to five occupants. 

Owner-occupied units would be limited to 90 rental nights per year, and there would be no limit on the number of nights that classic STRs or lodging-exempt STRs could be rented per year. Mayor Torre said he was uncomfortable with limiting residents to such a small number and asked his fellow council members to reconsider up to 120 nights. 

“I still don’t understand why we are limiting residents in this and yet we are going to issue unlimited permits to non-residents,” he said. “I am going to be wondering about that on second reading. It doesn’t make sense to me, and it seems counter to what we are trying to do.”

Councilman Skippy Mesirow said he agreed that the number should be at least 120, if not 180. He said he also did not think the occupancy limit was realistic because most STRs will not have extra single beds, but more likely queen-size sleeper sofas. 

“The reality of trying to manage that and count heads every time we go in is just silly to me,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense.” 

Ordinance 9 would cap the number of STRs to 75% of the existing number in residential zones, which is approximately 1,300. Council members were split on whether that number should remain in place. Torre said he wants more information at the ordinances’ second reading, while Councilman Ward Hauenstein suggested only placing a cap on the busiest zone districts. Councilman John Doyle said he wasn’t sure that 75% is high enough. 

Members of the public who spoke during public comment offered suggestions and asked the council to slow its process for passing any legislation. Torre reminded audience members that the second reading of Ordinance 9 is not scheduled until June 28 to allow the public time to familiarize themselves with the proposals and to submit comments. 

Torre added that he has received several comments via email on the topic of STRs and encouraged community members to speak at the second reading.

By: Megan Webber I The Aspen Daily News I May 25, 2022


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