Commissioners don’t say no to short-term rentals

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Issue sent back to planning commission

By Emile Hallez

The Jeffco commissioners rejected Aug. 23 the county planning commission’s recommendation against allowing short-term vacation rentals.

The issue is being sent back to the planning commission and will likely be heard at its Oct. 5 hearing. The commission is now being asked to develop a definition of short-term rentals and to edit the county planning staff’s revision to the zoning resolution.

Residents from South Jeffco and the mountain communities spoke out against short-term rentals, citing ongoing problems including noise, crowded parking and increased fire danger.
Supporters of vacation rentals — stays that can range from days to weeks — have said they resort to renting their homes in order to meet their mortgage payments.

“Six of the seven planning commission members said ‘no,’ and they said ‘no’ for a reason,” said Jo-Anne Anderson, president of the Columbine Knolls South Estates Homeowners Association. “Short-term rentals by their nature are not compatible with land use ordinances in our (official development plan). … It’s difficult to even comprehend the negative impact it will have on the ability to enjoy our homes.”

Specifically, large parties have occurred at a Columbine Knolls South home that has been rented out on a short-term basis, Anderson said. An influx of outsiders into the neighborhood alarmed some residents, as did the surge in on-street parking, she said.

“Neighbors were beside themselves with the number of cars on the street. … They had no idea who these people were or when they would leave,” Anderson said, adding that the county’s practice of citing violations on a complaint-driven basis ultimately makes residents zoning enforcers. “(Jeffco) has four people in our whole county who get to be the police. … So guess who gets to be the police — me and my neighbors.”

Though numerous residents testified against allowing the rentals, two people spoke in favor; one of them, Doug Reed, is a consultant who once worked as a Jefferson County planner.

“I’m here as a land planner. … Rezoning is not a very good way to accomplish this. The problem with rezoning is of course that it is permanent,” he said, referring to having homes rezoned specifically as lodging units. “My belief is that short-term rentals is not going to go away. … It’s a bit like prohibition.”

Though the commissioners hinted that a revision potentially allowing short-term rentals could ultimately be approved, they took no such action at the hearing, instead delaying the matter until the planning commission could produce an edit.

“Regardless of what we do here today, we have a short-term rental problem,” Commissioner John Odom said. “Something needs to be done, and the way it’s written here won’t do anything about it.”

Odom noted he personally experienced a problem living next to an illegal short-term rental, a Wheat Ridge property that he said was sublet on a short-term basis. In one instance, a renter killed his neighbor’s sister, Odom said.

“See if you can beat that one,” he said. “There are a lot of horror stories out there about short-term rentals.”

The other commissioners strongly agreed about a need for action on the issue, stating that not only should short-term rentals be clearly defined, but also that their use should either be allowed or prohibited in the zoning resolution.

“I have heard this a couple of times now,” said Commissioner Faye Griffin, who was part of a prior Board of Commissioners that rejected vacation rentals in the past. “This is a real dilemma, and it’s going on all over the United States. I have a problem with the short-term rentals, but I also think that maybe there should be something on the books.”


Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.comor 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.