The Palisade Planning Commission at its Aug. 4 meeting directed staff to simplify the requirements in a proposed residential short term vacation rental ordinance.

The introduction to the proposed ordinance explains, “The Town of Palisade recognizes that there are benefits to allowing owners of residential units within the Town to rent their dwelling units for periods of time less than 30 days.”

The commission also endorsed the planning staff’s proposed steps to revise the Land Development Code.  The town would start using the updated code on a trial basis in January and February 2015.

Ron Quarles, community development director, said in a memo to the commission, “The ultimate goal is to establish a new (land development) code that ensures quality growth and development, but is also reasonable and practical for the town.”

Residential vacation rental

The draft ordinance for short term vacation rentals describes potential benefits: “Short term rental of dwelling units bring additional visitors to the Town, can allow owners to recoup housing costs, and provides revenues for the Town through the additional tax collections.”

The draft states: “The provision of short term rentals offers additional diversification to the vacation and traveling professional accommodations market.”

The draft also suggests caution, “However, due to the potential for adverse impacts, short term rentals must be regulated by the Town to protect the health, safety, and welfare of owners, neighbors, and visitors.”

Discussing the rental ordinance, Quarles outlined topics to consider:  residential type, as well as intensity and duration of use; residential compatibility; security, health and safety; and requirements for approval.

Less than 30 days

The definition of short term vacation rentals was revised based on concerns raised at the July meeting.  The revised definition in a memo at the August meeting read, in part:  “Short term rental means a dwelling unit rented on a regular or season basis for monetary consideration for a period of time less than 30 consecutive days.”  It does not include a bed and breakfast, boarding or rooming house, or hotel.

The memo says the proposed definition does not include the use of one’s property to others where no fee is charged or collection, or for house sitting.

During the meeting, Quarles explained that the proposed ordinance does not apply to accessory dwellings, and it would limit occupancy to no more than two persons per bedroom.  He said the rental period is considered short term, not long term.

Quarles outlined the proposed rental rules:  “It has to be compatible with the residential character” of the unit, no signs are permitted, and vehicle parking is specified.  He agreed to the commission’s suggestion to limit parking to one space per bedroom.

Also, Quarles said a list of health and safety information would need to be posted.  It would include contact information, map of the fire extinguisher and emergency egress, trash pick-up location and schedule, and noise regulations.

Too complex

Asked by Chair Betsy McLaughlin for comment, Commissioner Roger Rawlings raised constitutional, complexity, and length objections to the proposed nine page ordinance.

Rawlings said about the ordinance proposal, “We’re making them so complex.”  Quarles asked what could be removed.  Rawlings said it needs to define the owner, include recommendations, and added, “The renter has obligations, too.”

Quarles said, “I hear what you’re saying,” and he said material that isn’t necessary can be taken out of the draft.  Rawlings suggested an ordinance that is simpler.

Commissioner Kenneth Ruth enthusiastically said, “Thanks, Roger!”  Rawlings, tongue in cheek, and with a smile, said, “You’re damn right!”

Chair McLaughlin said such a simplified approach “is what we need to do with the land development code” revisions, which were next on the agenda.

Land development code

The commission fully endorsed Community Development Director Quarles’ strategy for rewriting the Palisade Land Development Code.

“In an effort to support and encourage the town’s development as the economy recovers (from the “Great Recession”) staff is considering a new approach to the land use and subdivision regulations,” Quarles said in a memo to the commission.

“Staff would like to not only simplify the code, but establish a better guide for future development,” he said in the memo.  He said the existing code was adopted in May of 2008, and it has been revised seven times.

Quarles’s proposal is to simplify the layout of the code, then between August and December work with the commission and the public to “define inconsistencies, contradictions and inadequacies in the current standards and processes.”

This will include reviewing codes in 11 Colorado municipalities.  They are, ranging in population from 2,000 to 11,000, Lyons, Cedaredge, Silt, Florence, New Castle, Berthoud, Salida, Cortez, Craig, Rifle and Fort Morgan.  Quarles said, “We don’t want to do this without looking at other communities.”

The final step would be to make refinements.  “The objective of this phase is to ensure the code will actually function.”  The new code would be used on a trial basis in January and February 2015.

Quarles acknowledged that the goal of February 2015 is optimistic, but Chair McLaughlin replied, “We can try.”

Two members did not attend the meeting, new Commissioner Lafe Wood and Commissioner Ken Gideon.  Town Trustee Robynn Sundermeir, liaison to the commission, said Wood had a conflict, but he said he will attend the next meeting.

The 45 minute meeting was held at the Palisade Civic Center.  The regular meetings of the commission are held the first Monday of the month, 6 p.m., at the civic center, and they are open to the public.