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Pitkin County Lines Up Ban On Short-Term Rentals In Rural, Remote Zones

Pitkin County Lines Up Ban On Short-Term Rentals In Rural, Remote Zones

“Mini-hotels” in rural Pitkin County might get a pre-emptive kibosh, as the Pitkin County commissioners have indicated interest in prohibiting short-term rentals in the county’s rural, remote district.

Commissioners last week passed on first reading an ordinance that would result in a blanket exclusion of properties that lie within the county’s rural remote zone from the licensing and application processes of the STR code. Meaning, no STRs in the farthest reaches of Pitkin County. 

County staff said they are only aware of three properties that have either applied for an STR permit or publicly listed their property within the district in question. And the county has not granted any STR permits or licenses to any property in the rural remote zone.  

The commissioners voted 3-1 to pass, agreeing that STRs in rural Pitkin County should be scarce. Patti Clapper wanted to consider applications on a case-by-case basis, while the others thought it best to prohibit outright. 

“As far as how we are addressing remote short-term rentals, I believe it is a fair process that they are required to come to the BOCC when they apply for a license for us to individually consider each application on its own merit. I continue to support that,” Clapper said. “And I think we need to be very clear … there’s a deadline that you have to have proven that you have used your property for short-term rentals (at some point from May 11, 2017, and May 11, 2022).”

Commissioner Greg Poschmann brought up the potential safety concerns of having visitors heading out to a rural property. 

“Say you’re out in the (rural remote zone) and someone who’s not familiar with four-wheel drive or snow conditions gets stuck. It may be up to the people living nearby if they’re already to get them out,” he said. “We have issues with safety response and emergency response, whether there’s a fire or an ambulance is needed. Rural remote is not the sort of place where you want to have the renter’s showing up. And then perhaps also the housekeepers and the chef and the florist and whoever else visits the place to service it, which really turns into a mini hotel.”

He also pointed out potential wildlife impacts of a relatively high traffic area in remote parts of the county. 

Commissioner Francie Jacober said she originally aligned with Clapper’s take on the ordinance, but after hearing from constituents that overwhelmingly supported keeping STRs out of rural Pitkin County, she adjusted her position.

And Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kelly said she fully supports the ordinance, and that she has done so since the county first waded into STR regulation. 

Pitkin County land use code defines the intent of rural remote zoning as:

“The RR (Rural/Remote) zone district is intended to: (i) conserve and protect the natural environment and its resources, while allowing for limited recreational uses and limited residential development, (ii) preserve the small scale, low-density backcountry character and lifestyle, (iii) retain undeveloped areas, and (iv) allow for the transfer of development rights to areas that are more appropriate for development. This district accommodates only small new structures and very limited types of development.”

The county first implemented STR regulation in June 2022. Assistant County Attorney Richard Neiley said the commissioners had asked around then for staff to bring an ordinance prohibiting STRs in the rural remote zone to the board for consideration.

Commissioner Steve Child recused himself, noting that he owns property within in the rural remote zone district. 

A second reading of the ordinance with public comment is scheduled for June 14. Neiley said that county staff would ensure public comment submitted through the county portal would be included in the next agenda packet.

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