COLORADO SPRINGS–A group representing local short-term rental owners in Colorado Springs were surprised when, during a Nov. 12 city council meeting, a potential ban on such rentals in certain residential areas was proposed. The proposal came during a meeting in which the public was told that no vote or discussion on the topic would take place.
“We have shown up routinely to the meetings to ask questions and oppose additional regulations. All of which are being presented without any data or supporting evidence,” Ryan Spradlin of the Colorado Springs Short-Term Rental Alliance (COSSTRA) said. “Now, we are being removed from the equation because our involvement and demands for transparency have become inconvenient.”
In a November 5 letter to many STR permit holders, Council Constituent Response Specialist Sam Friedman said, “The City Council has decided to delay consideration of owner-occupancy definitions or density restrictions related to short-term rentals. There is no agenda item for short-term rentals on the November 12th meeting, therefore no Council discussion or vote of these proposals will be taken.”
A long discussion did in fact take place, however, after Councilmember Wayne Williams proposed a new ordinance aiming to ban non-owner occupied short-term rental properties in all R-1 zones, in which one single-family residence is permitted per lot.
Not everyone is in favor of the restriction of STRs in residential zones. Councilmembers Andy Pico, David Geislinger, and Jill Gaebler all voiced reservations regarding the proposal.
“I’m opposed to this. Adamantly so. I think this is a violation of property rights,” Pico said. “I think the regulations we have put in place up until now have been reasonable, and I think they should be given a better chance to work.”
However, the surprise proposal appeared to win tacit approval from four others on the council: Don Knight, Bill Murray, Tom Strand and Yolanda Avila. The measure could win final approval at the November 26 meeting in which a vote is expected to take place.
“For many of us, these properties and our investments represent our retirements, our children’s college funds, or our primary incomes,” Spradlin said. “It is extremely disturbing to consider that they might be the casualties of an unsubstantiated set of complaints. There are no statistics that show any meaningful need for these restrictions.”
About 76% of all STR permits in Colorado Springs are issued to “entire-home” properties, according to the website AirDNA.com, meaning most are not the owner’s primary residence or are only the primary residence for part of the year. According to the short-term rental permit office in Colorado Springs, 31% of all STR permits currently issued are to homes in an R-1 zone. The impact of such a ban could possibly affect more than just future permit seekers, as it isn’t clear if current permit holders would be grandfathered in under the ban.
“One of the options I’d like legal staff to be prepared to address at that time [November 26] is what are our options with existing or recently established entities,” said Williams. Williams went further to say Colorado law already prohibits short-term rentals in residential zones, without citing a law or statute supporting his claim.
“This is not a property right you enjoy,” Williams said. “You can disagree whether that should be the law, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is the law at the current time.”
The other item postponed to the Nov. 26 meeting involved a density restriction initiated by Williams requiring a STR must be at least five lots away from another STR in all directions. The council is also scheduled to vote to define an owner-occupied property as the owner living at the property for at least six months out of the year. Whether or not the residential zone ban goes through, the city council hopes to implement the density restriction in all zones.
“Something is better than nothing in this case,” Councilmember Knight said.
Councilmember Murray said he would like to go further and have city attorneys look into the possibility of changing the definition of non-owner occupied STRs to define them as business enterprises.
“STRs by design are business enterprises. I can’t support any density for a business enterprise in R-1. I think therein lies some of the fundamental issues,” Murray said.
During the same meeting, the council voted unanimously to enforce an occupancy limit on STRs for two people per bedroom with a 15-person maximum.
Roxanne Seither is a reporter with the Fourth Estate News Bureau.