In an effort to minimize the impacts of short-term rentals in the community, the Lone Tree City Council is considering new regulations including limiting overnight parking and the maximum number of permitted occupants.
Discussions of what to regulate are ongoing, as the city council has not formally voted on anything. However, during the council’s Nov. 1 study session, staff presented proposals that council members seemed to favor.
City Attorney Linda Michow said the main goals of the short-term rental regulations are to retain the residential character of neighborhoods, create affordable options to allow residents to stay in their homes, minimize the impact of short-term rentals on other residents and keep regulations simple with complaint-based enforcement.
City staff are preparing drafts for two ordinances for council to consider — a licensing and a zoning ordinance, Michow explained.
The zoning ordinance would state short-term rentals are allowed on any residentially-zoned property, subject to proper licensing by the city, she said.
Proposed licensing program
“We would require a separate licensing program in addition to a business license, a sales tax license and so on. And that would be under the city clerk’s office,” Michow said.
Obtaining a short-term rental license would require an application, she said.
One of the proposed application requirements is the identification of an “authorized agent” who can address any concerns which may arise, she said.
This person must be located within 50 miles of the licensed short-term rental and accessible within two hours of contact or outreach from a city official or city staff person, Michow said.
“We thought that was important for any particular noise or other complaints being generated from the licensed premises,” Michow said.
Other application requirements include the applicant submitting proof of lawful possession, like a deed, having liability insurance and submitting an affidavit stating they are the primary residential property owner and requiring them to attest to certain things, she said.
“Consistent with other licensing regulations, we’re proposing the term of a license fee adhere with annual renewal,” she said. “Along with that, we would also offer suspension and revocation opportunities if the licensed premises or the owner isn’t operating the short-term rental in compliance with local, state and/or any federal laws.”
The applicant would have to pay a licensing fee and remit sales and lodging tax, she said.
The city council also agreed with the staff’s proposal to restrict short-term rentals to primary residence only, as well as setting the limitation of one rental per dwelling.
Onsite and occupant limitations
Proposed onsite operational requirements include compliance with building, electrical and fire codes, Michow said.
“We are also proposing a maximum number of occupants,” she said. “Seems like the majority view is two persons per bedrooms in the home, excluding children of some age.”
For example, a four-bedroom house would be permitted to accommodate eight adults, as well as children under a certain age, she said.
Mayor Jackie Millet agreed with setting a maximum number of occupants for short-term rentals at two persons per bedroom and proposed to exclude children under the age of 5, to which other council members agreed.
“We’ve heard these horror stories of houses being rented and they’re putting people in every, you know — bedrooms and in living rooms and dining rooms are converted into bedrooms, and there’s a big pool in the backyard and it’s a party house,” Millet said. “So that’s what we want to deal with.”
The proposed regulations say the city is authorized and entitled to inspect the premises for compliance with operational requirements, Michow said.
Millet said the city does not plan to inspect all properties, and it would be complaint-driven.
“I just want to clarify it’s not our intention to proactively go out and inspect every one of these properties,” she said.
The city would also require people with short-term rentals who are advertising on a public network like Airbnb to include a city license number, Michow said.
If a person does not operate in conformance with the regulations and licensing requirements, their license could either be not renewed, revoked or suspended.
The proposed ordinance included limiting on-street parking to two spaces, Michow said, but people can have any number of cars parked on the property premises.
Mayor Pro Tem Wynne Shaw asked how the policy would work, given she’s heard of some limitations in implementing these kinds of parking restrictions and other Lone Tree residents may have more than two cars parked on the street.
“I think the question of enforcement may be challenging in terms of the on-street parking requirements. And again, this is going to be complaint-based,” Michow said.
Councilmember Cathie Frazzini said she’d agree to limiting parking to two on-street spaces if it’s regarding overnight parking, to which Millet agreed.
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Michow asked council whether the city should pursue prohibiting “large gatherings” and events at short-term rentals, prompting some discussion about if such a step was necessary.
Frazzini said she thinks it would be difficult to create the right criteria for such a restriction.
Millet said part of the short-term rental license is complying with the ordinance, which states a prohibited act of short-term rentals is disturbing the peace.
Michow said if there were multiple nuisance calls made to the police regarding a short-term rental, such as noise complaint calls, then the city could schedule a show-cause hearing on whether the person’s license should be suspended or not renewed.
“I think there is a way that we are addressing that — through the licensing, renewal, suspension and revocation procedures which are already included within the general business and licensing provisions,” Michow said in regards to the large gatherings.
The city council agreed, and therefore, did not ask for a restriction to be put in the ordinance.
Millet said council will have to be careful of situations where residents opposed to short-term rentals may make nuisance complaints for no reason.
“We can’t say something like, ‘Oh, you have two complaints, we’re pulling your license,’” Millet said.
Rather, a show-cause hearing would be scheduled, allowing for the opportunity for the police to share what they saw and if there were regulation violations at the property.
Reasons for the regulations
Millet said some residents have asked the city council to put short-term rental ordinances in place because there have been some “bad actors.”
“I think we are trying to get ahead of it a little bit, be proactive in just setting up some ground rules so the person living next door to the short-term rental every weekend isn’t dealing with party noise,” she said.
Frazzini said she views short-term rentals as similar to hotel stays, explaining they mimic vacations and parties, as compared to long-term rentals.
“There’s just a real dramatic difference between what that means to the property and people surrounding the property,” she said.
Building off Frazzini’s comment, Michow said she thinks the city is also trying to create a level playing field for other commercial lodging places already abiding by set rules and regulations.
“It is, in a way, to discourage a lot of short-term rentals and to promote longer term rentals and the character of the residential neighborhood,” Michow said.
Based on the city council discussion and direction, Michow said city staff will revise the two drafted ordinances.
Afterwards, staff will coordinate a public referral period of about 30 days to do some outreach, Michow said.
Michow expects there will be a planning commission hearing around December or January to make recommendations regarding the zoning ordinance.
Then, the city council will likely be able to formally consider adopting the proposed ordinances around February or March, she said.
“What I know for sure is it’s probably going to change at some point, but I think it’s a good place to start,” Millet said.