Vacation Rental Density Caps
By Candace Jones
Last month, the County published a report from its Short-Term Rental Task Force. The STR Task Force set aside the question of neighborhood density caps and gave themselves another 12 months to craft a separate report. On February 28, a citizen committee presented a density cap plan to the County Commissioners.
The Commissioners should not wait a year to address density caps. They can act on the citizen proposal.
Everyone acknowledges there are dense clusters of vacation rentals in some neighborhoods. Residents amongst the vacationers are sometimes bothered by noise, parking, and other nuisance conduct. More significantly, clusters of vacation rentals erode neighborhoods by making them less neighborly.
Some say the bothers of vacation rentals are a needed assist to Archuleta’s tourism industry. No doubt, vacation rentals offer a lodging option that can bolster tourism. That’s not, however, a reason to dismiss residents’ requests for limits on vacation rentals that would sustain neighborly neighborhoods.
In fact, keeping Archuleta a place where people want to settle for retirement and remote work should be a priority for anyone concerned about the local economy. The Region 9 Economic Development District of SW Colorado recently reported its Economic Snapshot 2022. Region 9 encompasses Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, and San Juan counties.
The Snapshot identifies the region’s “base industries.” Tourism is a base industry, accounting in 2020 for 24% of jobs in the region. “Households” are a bigger base industry for the region, supporting 35% of jobs. The “households” industry captures economic activity by people “who spend money earned elsewhere (commuters), or at a different point in time (retirees),” according to the Region 9 Snapshot. In Archuleta County, households supported 40% of jobs in 2020 compared to 31% by tourism.
People who retire to Archuleta for quiet mountain-town life are a significant economic driver for our community. Quality of life in Archuleta’s residential areas is important for our local economy. (See what others are doing around Colorado.)
The tourism and household industries can coexist. Vacation rentals can blend in with homes when a reasonable balance is maintained. To achieve balance, county government should give residents’ concerns at least as much weight as the views of vacation rental advocates. Community is neighbor helping neighbor. For that, we need neighborhoods of people we can get to know for more than a week or two.
The STR Task Force reported that only 10 of the 700 STRs registered in Archuleta as of December 2022 are owner-occupied. No one should expect vacation rental advocates to speak for both sides of the resident/vacation rental fence. Vacation rental advocates seem to have a louder voice in this debate. Volume does not equate to better policy.
Putting off action on neighborhood density caps proposed by the citizens’ committee minimizes resident voices arguing for balance and quality of life. The Commissioners should consider that festering discontent with vacation rentals could very well undermine the leading sector of our local economy, households.
If you agree, email your Commissioners or attend their meetings.