Despite restrictions, short-term rentals in Summit County continue to rise

Short-term rental properties in the Village of Copper Mountain Resort are pictured Friday, August 13, 2021. The Summit Board of County Commissioners recently heard a presentation from its planning department on the impact of new regulations on its rental program short term.
Ashley Low / For the Daily News Summit

The Summit Board of County Commissioners recently met with its planning department to learn about data gathered since new short-term rental regulations were passed in December. The move was intended to slow the rate at which individuals were applying for licenses.

But at the May 3 meeting, commissioners learned that the new regulations “have limited, if any, impact on short-term rental growth” in its new neighborhood overlay areas, according to the presentation. These neighborhood areas are where, historically, the majority of the county’s workforce lives.

Senior Planner Jessica Potter helped craft the new county regulations. She kicked off the presentation by noting that the county has nearly 4,600 licenses located in unincorporated Summit County, which is outside of all city limits.

From January 1 to April 25, 207 licenses were approved. Of those licenses, 61% were issued in “resort areas,” or areas historically intended for visitors and tourists, and 39% were issued in neighborhood areas. Historically, those percentages have reversed, Potter says, and there are usually more licenses approved in visitor-only areas.

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence noted that this trend made sense since many of these resort areas already had vacation rentals.

“Our resort areas are about to be built. There’s not a lot of room,” Lawrence said. “You also have to look at the totality. While most stations already have licenses, of course we won’t have many. We have more room in neighborhood areas.

Even so, the team was surprised to learn of the rate at which short-term rental inquiries were coming from neighborhood areas.

Potter said short-term rentals make up more than 10% of the overall housing stock in each of the county’s neighborhoods. Neighborhoods with the largest portions of short-term rentals include Woodmoor (37%), Breckenridge Heights (30%) and the Peak 7 neighborhood (28%).

Reviewing this data, Lawrence and Commissioner Tamara Pogue were concerned that some vacation rentals were not being taken into account.

“Being as familiar with Dillon Valley as I am, there are short-term rentals in Dillon Valley that are not on this map,” Pogue said of the presentation slides. “I’m concerned about that.”

Summit County Assistant Manager Bentley Henderson said people who are unlicensed and non-compliant will not appear in the county’s system.

In his presentation, Potter shared his perspective on the number of home sales resulting in a short-term rental license. In the second half of 2020, approximately 29% of sales resulted in a license. In the second half of 2021, this conversation rate increased to 39%.

This chart shows some of the data the Summit County Planning Department has collected on its short-term rental program year-to-date through April 25, 2022.
Jenna deJong/Summit Daily News

Only 10% of licenses are operated by a local, 50% are operated by someone living in state, and 40% are operated by people living out of state.

“I think the main point is that despite what we’ve done this fall, the licensing volume hasn’t gone down at all,” Pogue said.

Potter said what has improved in the first four months of the year is how the county handles enforcement of its rules and regulations. When the county was working on drafting its new rules, Potter noted that this was a point of contention for some residents.

“We heard so much during the public process when we were redoing these regulations that we weren’t necessarily meeting our end of the bargain in terms of the enforcement process, and I will absolutely concede some truth to that,” said Potter. “With that, in addition to having the time and resources to dedicate to the app, we’ve really upped our app game.”

Potter noted that about 92% of all complaints are about vacation rentals in neighborhood areas, even though those make up just 39% of the county’s total license count. The areas that typically receive the most complaints are the Peak 7 neighborhood, Wildernest, and Woodmoor. About 48% of all complaints are noise related and 32% are parking related. Other complaints usually relate to waste, not renting with an active license, or being overcrowded.

Among all these complaints, Potter said he noticed a general trend.

“It’s rare that there are ‘bad’ short-term rentals,” Potter said. “What we find is that it’s really difficult to control customer behavior.”

Even so, Lawrence and Pogue said they were concerned about the current trajectory of nominations. Potter noted that his team expects to approve 800 licenses before the end of the year, of which 600 are expected to be located in the Neighborhood Zone and 200 are expected to be based in the Resort Zone.

Pogue said that because of this, she would like to have additional conversations about the county’s short-term rental programs sooner rather than later, which Lawrence agreed. Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard did not attend the meeting.