Littleton City Council is moving closer to enacting regulations on short-term home rentals like those offered by Airbnb, but still at issue is whether the owner of such properties must prove it's …
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Littleton City Council is moving closer to enacting regulations on short-term home rentals like those offered by Airbnb, but still at issue is whether the owner of such properties must prove it's their primary residence.
The efficacy of such an ordinance to protect neighbors from degrading neighborhood character hinges on the requirement, said Dan Radulovich, one of many residents who brought Littleton's lack of short-term rental enforcement to council's attention this summer.
Allowing operators to run short-term rentals in homes other than their own would essentially grant “a commercial business license to someone to run a lodging business in a residential zone,” Radulovich said at the Sept. 4 city council meeting. “Honestly that should make your skin crawl if you're a public servant.”
Council currently has given itself until Oct. 17 to hammer out a framework to oversee the city's dozens of short-term rentals, scattered across the city in houses, apartments, accessory dwelling units and spare bedrooms.
Though ten are currently licensed by the city, a search of Airbnb or VRBO reveals far more operating under the radar. Mayor Debbie Brinkman said in July that the city's policy on such rentals has long been reactive — responding to neighbor complaints rather than actively seeking to regulate rentals.
Under the proposed ordinance, discussed at the Aug. 28 city council study session, short-term rentals would be allowed in all zoning areas that allow residential use, and applicants would need to pay for an annual license.
Operators would be required to provide off-street parking for renters, and would have to provide contact information for a local person who could respond to problems if the owners are away.
Council was divided, though, on whether to require operators to prove that the property is their primary residence.
Such a requirement could be construed as taking away property rights, said councilmember Kyle Schlachter.
“What if somebody has a house here, and they live in a house in Nevada or Florida?” Schlachter said. “The goal here is to keep someone from buying up a block of houses and renting them all out. A limit of one short-term rental license per individual would prevent changing the character of a neighborhood.”
Limiting short-term rentals wouldn't necessarily restrict property rights, said councilmember Carol Fey.
“It's not like we're saying you can't rent out your house,” Fey said. “If they don't want this to be their primary residence, they can do it as a regular rental.”
Mayor Brinkman said she had concerns on the issue.
“It's one thing if you don't live here but have a business here and hire a manager,” Brinkman said. “When you run a business in a neighborhood, it's very different. Especially considering these businesses effectively operate 24 hours a day. Things like parking and noise are not as easy to manage.”
The meeting did not address how or whether currently unlicensed operators would be brought into compliance, though city staff have floated the idea of hiring a third-party company that would monitor online listings. City attorney Steve Kemp said that violators of the ordinance could be prosecuted for a misdemeanor, but that the city's priority would be on getting them licensed.
Littleton isn't alone in trying to figure out how to respond to short-term rentals, Brinkman said.
“We're being reactive,” Brinkman said. “Nobody has this figured out. It's happening to us.”
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