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Carbondale report: Trustees narrow in on STR regs

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Carbondale trustees made considerable progress during a work session on Jan. 18 toward a solution to limit the proliferation of short-term rentals (STR) within town limits, while taking into account primary residents that rely on income generated by the model. Close to 90 attendees joined the meeting, both online and in-person.

It began with a presentation by Carbondale Forward, the pro-STR group formed in response to Community First Carbondale’s (CFC) proposed regulations. Presenters outlined the benefits of STRs for local businesses, tourism and operators. The group’s arguments are detailed at www.carbondaleforward.org

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Other pertinent materials informing the debate are included in the meeting’s packet at www.bit.ly/CdaleAgendas

Following the presentation by Carbondale Forward, trustees heard 34 public comments representing a wide range of perspectives on the issue. Many STR proponents emphasized their roots in the Valley. “We’re not speculators, we’re active and committed members of the community working hard to afford the high cost of living in this valley,” said Zane Kessler.

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“Huge meeting here tonight,” quipped former trustee Allyn Harvey. “Reminds me of the City Market meetings way back in 2010 or so … because this isn’t an issue right now, this is the time to be addressing it. Aspen didn’t address it and is a mess now.” A comprehensive count, included in the packet, came up with 68 STRs within town limits.

Before discussion among trustees, Kevin Rayes with CFC returned to the podium. He quoted from the town’s current code, asserting that STRs in residential districts are not allowed by right and therefore out of compliance. “Non-conforming uses are ocurring right now,” he warned, creating a liability to the property owner as well as the town “for not enforcing its own code.”

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“Thank you for such a good discussion,” said trustee Ben Bohmfalk. “This is how policy decision making is supposed to work.” Bohmfalk acknowledged, “CFC at first was going to go straight to the ballot … Let’s keep that in mind. If we do nothing, likely voters will approve what’s been proposed.”

“I know that it’s not the solution to our housing crisis, but it is something that we have to do: send a message about what’s important to this community,” trustee Luis Yllanes chimed in.

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Mayor Richardson reiterated for the public discussion three ways in which the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) impacts how Carbondale can proceed. First, TABOR prohibits the town from implementing a real estate transfer tax, or even asking voters to do so, eliminating a potential source of funding for affordable housing. Second, TABOR requires that any proposed tax go to the voters. Lastly, regarding property tax, if a house is used as a business but not zoned commercial, its owner is paying a fraction of what they otherwise would.

Trustees walked away from the productive work session with a rough plan: draft an ordinance to begin permitting STRs by mid-summer, allowing for data to be collected on how many exist and where. Then, grant registered STRs until the end of 2023 to come into compliance with whatever regulations are decided upon.

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According to CFC’s proposal, in order to have a STR permit renewed in 2024, it must also be a person’s primary residence, or in a commercial zone district. Otherwise, an existing mechanism within the town’s code allows for a homeowner to acquire a bed and breakfast license for a residential property. This involves receiving a conditional review from the Planning and Zoning Commission, providing opportunity for neighbors to weigh in on the potential impact that such a use may create.

The discussion will continue at an upcoming meeting as the trustees review the presented material and whittle down the language for an ordinance.

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All public meetings are archived on the town’s YouTube channel.

Tags: #Carbondale #Carbondale Forward #Community First Carbondale #short-term rentals
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