Two different proposed Amendments to Palisade’s Land Development Code were on last Monday night’s agenda of the Palisade Planning Commission. Public Hearings for both were held with each hearing resulting in a recommendation to Trustees who will then vote to adopt or not at their next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

The first proposal was to amend Section 7.01 of the LDC dealing with short-term vacation rental homes. Currently the code states that paying guests would not be allowed to use any bedrooms in the basement of a short term vacation rental home. Only the homeowners would be allowed to use any basement bedrooms.

Requested by Bill and Kristan McDonald, the new owners of a previously approved short term vacation property at 311 Troyer, the change proposes that basement rooms could be used by guests as long as they are constructed to meet the current building codes, particularly regarding egress windows. The new owners have since remodeled the 311 Troyer house so that the basement bedrooms meet current codes. Since the house has an open stairway to the lower level, the owners would need to actually lock off the lower level bedrooms when the house was being rented to comply with the current code.

The applicants pointed out, correctly, that there appears to be a conflict in the current language of the ordinance, which defines a short term vacation rental home as either a residence where the owner occupies the residence and rents out rooms, or a residence that is totally available to the renters, with the owner residing elsewhere. The limitation on the use of the basement is not consistent with a non-owner occupied residence.

Community Development Director Ron Quarles informed commissioners that Mesa County is adopting new permit procedures regarding short term vacation rentals and that the Mesa County Building Department will now be inspecting any short term vacation rental property. They’ll be making sure applicants comply with all life/safety standards like egress windows, stair handrails, smoke/CO2 detectors and fire extinguishers. The Town of Palisade will be requiring the Mesa County inspection before granting a license to operate a short term vacation rental.

Although the McDonalds were present to answer questions, commissioners were reminded that the ordinance change would affect the code itself, therefore, would affect ALL short term rental properties, not just the McDonalds at 311 Troyer.

The discussion moved to whether guests should have access to any unfinished portions of a basement, whether or not there are also bedrooms in the basement of a short term rental.

Commissioners agreed to table the discussion until the January 7, 2019 meeting and Quarles agreed to bring samples of suggested ordinance language to deal with the issue of unfinished space in any short term rental.

The second Public Hearing dealt with section 7.03 of the LDC to modify requirements for length of occupancy for Recreational Vehicle parks. A new section had been added to the LDC in 2017 to deal specifically with RV parks, after the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the Palisade Basecamp RV Resort had been approved. The owners of the Palisade Basecamp RV Resort would like to apply to allow for extended stays beyond the 30 days that are currently allowed by the LDC. Since the code itself specifies the length of stay allowed, Palisade’s town attorney recommended that the code itself be modified before the individual applicant applies to modify their CUP beyond what the code allows. The change being suggested to the LDC would apply to any RV park, not just to Palisade Basecamp. The change in the ordinance would simply add “unless otherwise approved by a CUP” to the current language. This provision would permit an RV park to apply for extended stays on an individual basis. It was also suggested that where the code refers to a person ‘occupying’ a space, it might be changed to say ‘occupying or renting’ a space to be more succinct.

Keith Ehlers, co-owner of Palisade Basecamp RV Resort, presented the request to amend the Land Development Code, and assuming passage of the change, would likely apply for an amendment to Palisade Basecamp’s CUP.

While admitting that long-term guests at the park do not work economically from Spring Break through Halloween, Ehlers also outlined a number of scenarios for the winter months that offered a solution to real-time market requests without allowing degeneration into a ‘trailer park’ or ‘man-camp’ atmosphere.

It was unanimously approved to recommend the proposed change to the LDC to the Board of Trustees for their consideration at their December 11 meeting.

Local artist and North River Road resident Tim Wedel also spoke to remind planning commissioners of the objections of many neighbors along North River Road at the original hearings for the RV park, asking for consideration before approving Basecamp’s requests for long-term guests. Community Development Director Quarles assured him that if the code amendment is approved, and if Palisade Basecamp then applies for an amendment to their CUP, a public hearing will be held and residents of the North River Road area will once again be invited to voice their opinions.

Attending Monday night’s meeting were commissioners Riley Parker, Charlotte Wheeler, Penny Prinster, Stan Harbaugh, Don Bosch, Ron Gearhart, Betsy McLaughlin and Susan L’Hommedieu.