Short Term Rentals: Why They Matter
Short Term Rental Ordinance
This is long, but there is a Call to Action at the bottom. If you don't have time to read this, please skim it and read the last part. If it's important to you, do something!
At the City Council meeting this week, the Council approved a measure that requires owners of Short Term rentals to register with the City and to pay the required sales tax and lodging tax. There are some other good points to this Ordinance. Owners of these rentals must have a local contact person who can be contacted in the case of issues, such as loud guests or poor snow removal. Short term rentals must have an inspection by the fire department that will help assure that these homes are safe. These are all good things. But...
As I mentioned at the April 19th City Council meeting and another resident discussed at the meeting on May 3, there is no line in our current Zoning code that covers Short Term Rentals. There is no doubt in my mind that Short Term Rentals are a business ad should follow all the requirements of Commercial Uses. Our code does require that businesses that want to operate in a Residential area must go through an approval process. Commercial Lodging is specifically NOT PERMITTED in any residential area. Bed and Breakfasts and Home Businesses require approval before they are allowed to operate. Often these approval processes include inviting those who live within a specific radius of the proposed business to come to Planning Commission and give their thoughts about how this proposed business will influence their quality of life, parking, property values, etc. The Planning Commission then interprets the Code and can allow or disallow any CONDITIONAL use.
Since there is no specific mention of Short Term Rentals in our Code, it is hard to control the number, location, density, etc. of Short Term Rentals. The Planning Commission has to follow the Zoning code as written, and currently there is no mention of Short Term Rentals.
City Council says that there is another round of discussions coming up that will deal with the Short Term Rental issue. I think that it is on the back burner. How many new homes will be turned into Short Term Rentals before Council makes this a priority? According to the Salida Finance Director, there are about 70 Short Term Rentals that are currently paying the required taxes and lodging fees. She estimates that there are more then 30 other homes that are flying under the radar, and that there could be many more than that. Some of you have several on your block.
Why does this matter? What is wrong with having 500 short term rentals in town? Here is my opinion in two bullet points.
1) Short term rentals degrade the small town community. How many times have you run next door to borrow a cup of sugar? Do you know your neighbors? Isn't this part of why you live in a small town? If there are strangers coming and going next door, you cannot build the social network that makes small town living special. If you are surrounded by short term rentals, you may have to go a block to find a neighbor who knows your name.
2) Short term rentals increase the cost of housing in Salida. Scarcity drives up the price of anything. For every house that is removed from the pool of homes that are available to live in year round, both the price of rent and the price of homes on the market goes up. There is a tremendous scarcity of homes on the market for sale right now (ask any realtor) and the price keeps going up.
When you add (1) and (2) together, it spells bad news.
HERE'S THE CALL TO ACTION
If you agree (or disagree) with me and want Council to make this issue a priority, please do one or more of the following:
Call or email your City Council person. Don't know how? Go here: http://cityofsalida.com/city-government/elected-officials/
If you don't know who your representative is, go here to see which Ward you live in: http://cityofsalida.com/_site/wp-content/uploads/City-Council-Wards-June-2013.pdf
Speaking up at Council can be tough for some people, but I think it is the best way to let Council know how you feel. I spoke up at a meeting a couple of weeks ago and I was approached by no fewer than 10 people who thanked me for speaking up. Unlike emails and phone calls, if you speak at Council it is public and recorded and broadcast. This can be scary, but more people hear what you have to say and it becomes part of the record. If you and 5 friends all speak up at a meeting, you will be HEARD.
If you have had negative experiences with Short Term Rentals (noise, parking, lack of snow removal, etc.) tell your Council person.
If you think that Short Term Rentals should go through the same approval process as other businesses located in Residential Areas, let your Council representatives know.
If you think that Council should put a moratorium on new Short Term Rentals until the Code can be amended, let them know.
Just to be clear, I think that it would be tremendously unfair to revoke the rights of those who are currently operating Short Term Rentals. They have invested a lot of time and money in furnishing and advertising their homes. BUT I think that EVERY NEW Short Term Rental should go through a Planning Commission hearing, and I think that the City Council should put a moratorium on new Short Term Rentals until this topic can be discussed and the Code amended.
Thanks for listening. I have thick skin, so if you disagree, no problem. Be part of the conversation. Have a lovely day.