Summit County Council will hold a public hearing for a moratorium on overnight rentals

The Summit County Courthouse.
Park Record File Photo

Summit County Council is expected to hold a public hearing at the next meeting to consider whether to approve a 6-month moratorium on overnight rental licenses in response to growing community concerns.

The county council appeared set to vote on the measure on Wednesday after a May 11 business meeting in which staffers discussed passing a temporary ordinance barring new licenses in Summit County unincorporated as they sought solutions to persistent problems with short-term rentals. Questions from some county councilors and opposition from the Park City Board of Realtors led to the matter being tabled until next week.

“For reasons I don’t understand, other than a room full of people saying ‘Please don’t do this because property rights’…we’re going to back out of an order that would even give us shortest time to get to licensing requirements,” County Councilor Roger Armstrong said. “I don’t understand the pressure there is not to put a moratorium in place.”

Under the draft order, no overnight rental licenses would be granted for the six months to give the county time to consider the matter. Lynda Viti, assistant county attorney, said a moratorium wouldn’t impact many people because licenses for this year had to be renewed by Jan. 15 or late fees would be issued.

Those who already have a nightly rental license would not be affected, but properties without a license could not apply until next year if a moratorium is adopted. Staff members said this would allow them to sort through the number of legal short-term rentals while teasing units that do not meet the necessary standards.

Current Summit County rules state that the only requirement for an overnight rental is that the owner obtain a license that includes contact information and sales tax collection information. However, officials suspect that most units used for short-term rentals are not properly licensed.

Armstrong admitted the effort won’t be easy and estimated there were 8,000 overnight rentals countywide, or about 22% of Summit County’s accommodations. He said the growing number of short-term rentals has led to a long-term housing deficit as landlords welcome visitors rather than the workforce.

“That represents a significant number of units that have been pulled from the long-term housing market,” Armstrong said. “Again, we wouldn’t be able to affect anything within the boundaries of Park City…but it’s a really tough nut to crack and I think we need to at least have the freedom to do this job. to see where we end up with that.”

Beyond housing issues, County Councilor Glenn Wright said elected officials should also consider imposing parking rules at these addresses, mandating smoke detectors and determining where overnight rentals should be permitted when rewriting the licensing ordinance. Part of the process could include identifying properties that would likely be used for longer than 30 days if short-term rentals were prohibited.

County Councilor Doug Clyde agreed and said it was not unreasonable for the local government to restrict overnight rentals if it is for the general welfare of the community.

“We are not just a seaside resort. There are people who live here who want to be part of these communities, who want to get to know their neighbors, who want their children to play in the park, and who don’t want to be disturbed late at night when you have cars nearby”, Clyde said, “There are a lot of neighborhoods, even in Park City, there are areas right now where you can’t do nightly rentals…it’s not unreasonable for a government authority.”

Clyde said elected officials only need to demonstrate a reasonable argument that they are acting in the interests of the people, which outweighs counter-arguments about property rights and loss of income due to the impossibility to rent – ​​making the public laugh. He added that the government must balance property rights with public rights.

Under state law, local governments cannot prevent rental operators from listing properties on websites like Airbnb and VRBO, but they can enforce other regulations that limit the number of guests, issue fines for improper permitting, restrict the number of units in a certain area, or outright ban if they affect the character of a neighborhood.

Armstrong said with a nearly 50% increase in overnight rental inquiries — there were 699 short-term rental inquiries in the county in 2019 and the number has grown to 916 inquiries so far this year — elected officials should pause the process until they can figure out what changes are needed. County Councilor Chris Robinson wondered if more people would apply for a license if a moratorium is not passed, as they realize the rules could change as talks continue.

County Councilor Malena Stevens acknowledged there were issues with overnight rentals in the community and said the county council needed to determine what areas of concern were, but she questioned the connection between the business licensing regulations and zoning changes, which was a possibility discussed at a previous Gathering. Stevens said elected officials had many broad goals but needed a clear understanding of the issue and how different neighborhoods are affected before taking action, which drew applause from the opposition.

“Without first having a clearer understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish with this, I don’t know how to make that connection,” she said.

However, the process for changing licenses or zoning will be different depending on how the county council proceeds. Dave Thomas, the county’s chief civil attorney, said a comprehensive zoning process was needed if elected officials wanted to pass an overlay zone for overnight rentals.

One of the downsides of the rezoning is that some owners may claim they have a non-conforming legal use, also known as grandfathered uses, meaning the units were legal when they were been established but no longer comply with the current zoning ordinance. Thomas said that’s why many jurisdictions aren’t making changes to their zoning code and instead focus on licensing.

“Part of the problem is that, for the most part, short-term rentals are all in residential zoned neighborhoods. So how do you tell the difference between these? It becomes problematic when you have residential neighborhoods that are generally located the same way and you’re going to say that neighborhood has rentals and this one doesn’t,” Thomas said. “These are the types of issues you’re going to run into if you try to address this through zoning, whereas if you address the issues that you have, the health, safety and welfare issues, you can probably solve them easier by editing your short. – ordinance license on term rentals.

As elected officials continued their discussion and new questions arose, Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson said she was concerned about taking public comments because the meeting was not seen as a public hearing and the contribution may be distorted.

Clyde said he didn’t want to vote on a moratorium until a public hearing was held and Stevens seemed to agree, saying more time was needed to consider the options. Wright said the order should be taken as a first step while related issues are discussed going forward.

Armstrong appeared frustrated that some elected officials were unwilling to act on Wednesday.

“Two weeks ago, we asked the county attorney’s office to write a moratorium order. We all sat here and said do it. Now that we have one in front of us, nothing has changed. We have all these overnight rentals there. They do not comply with any of the health, safety and welfare concerns that the accommodation industry must comply with. We’ve heard people complaining about the impacts…we get them all the time. It doesn’t change,” he said.

The county council is scheduled to hold a public hearing into the merits of the moratorium at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 1 at the Ledges Event Center in Coalville.


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