Trustees Special Meeting: August 13, 2018

by Pitkin News august 14, 2018


The Pitkin Town Council held a special meeting and a workshop on August 13 to complete the formalities of a budget amendment and submission of a letter in support of improvements to the Alpine Tunnel. The work session of the meeting was devoted to discussion of a planned vote to determine how the Council should proceed to establish regulations for short term rentals.

The Council voted to adopt Resolution 2018-9 for a supplemental appropriation of reserve funds to help pay for additional expenses related to repair and painting of Town Hall. The Council also agreed to submit a letter in support of having the Alpine Tunnel placed on the list of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places. It is hoped that gaining such a designation will facilitate grant funding and volunteer support for repair and improvements to the Alpine Tunnel road and historic site.

The work session was scheduled to continue discussion from the August 6 regular Town meeting when the Council agreed to ask the voters of Pitkin to formally weigh in on whether or not short term rentals should be allowed in the Residential zoning district. Town Attorney Jim McDonald submitted a written proposal for a ballot question that would seek and yes/no vote on whether or not the Council should amend the Zoning Code to prohibit STRs in the Residential district. The plan is to seek a vote and based on the results amend the zoning code if the voters favor restricting STR location. Trustee Suzy Metzler submitted written comments expressing concern the amendment of the Zoning Code may still leave the issue unresolved as current operators may argue they are a nonconforming use which should be allowed to continue to operate even if the Zoning Code is amended. Ms. Metzler suggested that perhaps amending the original STR ordinance, adopted earlier this year and later repealed, to specify that STR operating permits will be issued only to properties in the Business district might be a simpler way to resolve the issue of STRs in Residential. In considering the matter the Council acknowledged that a Zoning Code amendment may lead to potential litigation to address whether or not STRs currently operating in Residential will be allowed to continue. Noting the possible cost and uncertainty of outcome, the Council agreed the possibility of litigation should not drive their final decision on the ballot question. Attorney McDonald pointed out, along with his proposed draft ballot question, that regardless of the outcome of the vote the Town still should consider adopting STR permitting regulations as a Zoning Code amendment only relates to land use. Trustee Brad Wick agreed and suggested that having a vote to resolve the zoning question is a first step which should then be followed quickly by the adoption of a STR operating regulation. Mr. Wick noted that both Denver and Golden have STR regulations which address criteria which need to be met beyond just the zoning issue. Mr. Wick noted an STR regulation could require a number of conditions that would have to be met to obtain a permit, including liability insurance, a STR being a primary residence of the permit holder, and certain safety improvements being required.

Following further discussion and several public comments concerning the need for the Council to clearly resolve an issue which has negatively affected Pitkin since 2015, the Council agreed that at their September regular meeting they should consider adopting a ballot question that reads as follows:

“Shall the Town of Pitkin, Colorado, Zoning Code be modified to allow the operation of short term rentals, defined as rentals of 29 days or less, only in the Business District.”

The proposed ballot question will be finalized at the regular Town Council meeting in September.

You may listen to the audio recording of this meeting by following this Link.