Trustees Work Session: March 4, 2019

by Pitkin News march 4, 2019


At a work session on March 4 the Pitkin Town Council began discussion of what is hoped to be a compromise solution to the ongoing controversy about short term rentals (STRs), particularly in the residential district of the community. In a nearly three hour give and take session of comments by Trustees and the public it appears there is some common ground but there are also issues on which the community remains divided, thus raising concern that a true compromise may not be possible.

A draft proposed short term rental ordinance was presented for discussion. The draft, prepared by Trustees Brad Wick and Angi Huckaby, is based on considerable discussion by the Trustees since last December when it was agreed that some sort of compromise is probably the only way to resolve the short term rental issue. It should be noted that the Town Council, at a special meeting in February, committed to completing a new ordinance by June 1. The March 4 discussion was the beginning point for meeting that goal and it appears it will be difficult to strike a compromise that satisfies both sides of the issue.

The draft regulation’s stated purpose is to establish short term rental regulations that recognize the potential impact on the residential character of Pitkin and to protect the town’s water resources through careful implementation of the Town’s OWTS (septic system) regulations. The draft proposes that a short term rental license is required to lawfully operate an STR and that advertisement for STRs must reference the license. Further, it will be unlawful to advertise greater occupancy than is shown on the license. Council and public discussion of this last requirement indicates that the advertising requirements will need to be clarified and may include the requirement that the advertising specifically state the license number and the licensed occupancy. Such requirements also need to be coordinated with an existing ordinance that prohibits the advertisement of occupancy in excess of 2 persons per bedroom.

A detailed application and review process is outlined in the draft regulation and several concerns were raised during discussion. Under discussion is whether or not only a portion of a residence may be designated as an STR and to what extent application information should address off-street parking plans for occupants. An application fee is required and there was discussion of the timing for payment of the actual license fee and bond required by the proposed regulations. As to the parking issue, some believe that parking is a problem for all properties while others argue that STRs should make special provisions for off-street parking of rental occupant’s vehicles, OHVs, and trailers.

The greatest divide in opinion identified during the work session relates to maximum occupancy of STRs. Proponents of STRs believe that occupancy of STRs in the Residential zoning district should be related to the OWTS design capacity. Opponents of STRs in the Residential district appear to support allowing STRs in residential areas if there is a restriction on the number of occupants. This is probably the most critical point to be resolved if a compromise is truly to be reached and no clear solution was identified at the work session. The draft regulation proposes a maximum occupancy of six persons in the residential district and eight in the commercial district. This matter is to be discussed further at the next work session on STRs as will several other draft sections related to performance bonds, renewal and revocation of licenses, penalties for violation of regulations, and license compliance requirements.

The date of the next work session will be discussed at the regular Town Council meeting on March 11.

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