Short-term vacation rentals arouse interest
Palisade’s sixth application for a short-term vacation rental property was approved unanimously on Monday night, Feb. 22, at the meeting of the Palisade Planning Commission.
According to Community Development Director Ron Quarles, of the five previously approved properties, two are now operating as long-term rental properties instead, but others are operating as short-term vacation rentals. Although the addresses of approved short-term vacation rental properties may be obtained at Town Hall, it was pointed out by Commissioner Robynn Sundermeier that they can also be found on VRBO.com, a commonly used short-term vacation rental website. No one currently owns more than one short-term vacation rental property.
Eric Scamehorn, the applicant and owner of the property, was not able to be at the meeting due to the temporary closure of I-70. He spoke with Community Development Director Ron Quarles just before the meeting, leaving his phone number with Quarles in case there were any questions of him.
Also notified of Monday’s public hearing were the 33 property owners within a 300 ft. radius of the property in question. A notice was placed in the Daily Sentinel, and signage regarding the public hearing was posted on the property as required by the Municipal Code.
The property, located at 480 W. 5th Street, is a three-bedroom, one-bath residence of approximately 1,300 sq. ft. on a parcel of about 6,250 sq. ft. Drawings and photos of the property interior and exterior, as well as spaces allotted for parking of vehicles were included with the application. Although the current code would allow as many as eight occupants on the property, two per bedroom, and two additional guests, the owners notified the commission that they plan to limit their rentals to four guests, though they would not be restricted to four.
Questions regarding short-term vacation properties
David Balak, 321 Troyer, asked if there is a standard size for a parking space. Quarles replied that the standard size is nine feet wide by nineteen feet long.
Dale Rocco, 3819 N. River Road, questioned the appearance of the short-term vacation property and whether it would continue to maintain the look of a residence, as required of owners of such properties, based on the fact that four cars could possibly be parked in the back yard. It was pointed out that two parking spaces were allotted in the front of the house along 5th Street, so all guest cars would not be parked in the back. The current code specifies that the parking spaces must be on gravel or pavement in answer to a question by Colleen Balak, 321 Troyer.
Penny Prinster, 309 W. 5th Street, observed that there is a home across from the skate park that currently has four cars parked in the back yard, without it detracting from the appearance from the street.
Rocco also asked for information on enforcing the regulations such as the number of guests and the number of vehicles. Quarles explained that at this time, the short-term vacation rental program is policed by neighbors. If there are too many guests, too much noise or other disturbances, the neighbors can call Town Hall to make a complaint. A code enforcement officer is employed by the town to deal with such issues. He also explained that after approval of the site plan by the planning commission, there would be an safety inspection by the Fire Chief and then issuance of a $50 annual business license from the town before any guests are booked.
Rocco asked how the lodging fees are calculated and collected; Quarles answered that it is based on the honor system at this time, at $2 per room per night, and that the Town Treasurer currently receives a monthly occupancy report and payment from each lodging representative. So far, the program has been able to be monitored satisfactorily by the treasurer, but the code enforcement officer could be called upon to investigate any complaints regarding either the short-term tenants or the fee collection.
He also questioned how the capacity on a vacation rental property is calculated. The code allows two guests per bedroom plus two additional guests. Whether or not the property owner chooses to maximize the rental possibilities or chooses to limit the number of guests to a lower number is up to each owner.
There was also a question as to whether an interior bedroom with a door but no window or closet could legally be classified as a bedroom. Quarles will get further clarification the exact definition of a bedroom.
Rocco asked why the residence is taxed as a residence and not as a business. It was pointed out by another citizen, Dan Boshe of 515 Milleman, that a short-term vacation rental is treated the same way as a long-term rental property. Long-term rental income to a small landlord is usually accounted for on a separate schedule attached to their personal income tax return, and usually taxed at personal income tax rates.
Planning Commissioner Rick Gibson moved to accept Scamehorn’s application with the understanding that the rental capacity would be dependent on the number of bedrooms that the Fire Inspector deems to be legal bedrooms. Therefore, if the interior bedroom in the Scamehorn property was deemed not to be a legal bedroom, the legal rental capacity would be reduced from eight to six. Ron Gearhart seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously.
Text Amendment regarding production capacities
The objective of Tuesday evening’s second public hearing was a ruling on a text amendment to simplify the language in the Palisade Land Development Code (LDC) regarding production capacities of brewpubs, distilleries and microbreweries.
The current language of the LDC specifies limits of production at no more than 15,000 barrels produced by brewpubs, 20,000 raw gallons for distilleries, and no more than 59,000 barrels for a microbrewery. Since distilleries, brewpubs and microbreweries are licensed and regulated by the Colorado Department of Revenue, Liquor Enforcement Division, any production limits stated by the town are subject to limits set by state regulations. This makes the specification of production limits in our LDC a duplicated effort, since the state regulations both specify limits and also take precedence.
Quarles volunteered that the request for the text amendment was made after a discussion during a meeting of the Board of Trustees earlier in February. The board felt that a simplification was in order, also freeing the town from having to regulate and enforce production limits, both of which would be duplicated by the State.
Commissioner Ron Gearhart moved to approve the text amendment as it was presented, with Charlotte Wheeler seconding the motion, which then passed unanimously.
Attending the meeting on Monday, February 22, 2016, were Commissioners Charlotte Wheeler, Rick Gibson, Ron Gearhart and Chair Betsy McLaughlin. Lafe Wood was absent.
The meeting was originally scheduled for Monday, February 1, but had been rescheduled due to conflicts and holidays. The next meeting of the Palisade Planning Commission will be held on Monday, March 7, at 6:00 p.m. at the Civic Center meeting room at 341 W. 7th Street. All meetings are open to the public.
In the interest of transparency, in addition to reporting on the meetings of the Planning Commission and the Board of Trustees, Betsy McLaughlin is also a member of the Planning Commission.