Housing crisis fought on multiple fronts – The Sopris Sun
All the directors were present at the regular meeting of March 8.
During the Administrator’s Comments, Lani Kitching provided an update on Crystal River’s restoration work at Riverfront Park. Based on the limited window to work in the stream with minimal disturbance to aquatic species, the project is expected to begin in August and end in October. The goal is to improve riparian habitat and river access near River Valley Ranch.
Kitching also announced that the free COVID testing program as we know it is “coming to an end, scheduled for the end of April.” The site operated in the town hall parking lot for 18 months.
Mayor Dan Richardson praised Chief Financial Officer Renee Gustine for making the city’s 2022 budget book easily accessible to www.bit.ly/Cdalebudget2022
Then the directors unanimously approved a series of liquor licenses for: Tiny Pine Bistro, located in The Beat’s former space at 968 Main Street; Downtown Liquors on Main, replacing Mary’s Main Street Spirits at 389 Main Street; a fundraiser for Ducks Unlimited at The Orchard on April 9; and the return of the 5Point Film Festival the weekend of April 21.
Continuing on the agenda, the trustees approved two public road maintenance contracts using the “chip and seal” technique. “A wise use of funding,” Richardson said, “to minimize taxpayer investment and keep our streets running.”
After a short break, the trustees returned to the subject of the regulation of short-term rentals (STR), defined as accommodation rented for less than 30 consecutive days. This initial phase, presented in the form of an ordinance, aims to provide data for the current inventory of STRs, while allowing for an ongoing discussion towards more comprehensive regulation.
The order will not interrupt existing STRs currently in operation, but will limit the creation of additional STRs. By July 31, a license will be required to operate an STR. To obtain one, the applicant must be a “natural person”, and not a company, holding a right of ownership over the leased property. License numbers must be quoted in all advertisements and a contact person must also be available to respond to issues within 60 minutes.
Until subsequent regulations are approved, new licenses will only be issued to properties that are the applicant’s primary residence, or on the same property, or located within the Historic Commercial Core (HCC) area district. All licenses will expire on December 31, 2023, unless the city passes new bylaws that allow for renewal or extension.
“Thank you,” said administrator Ben Bohmfalk. “We have come so far. This reflects our conversation very well. One adjustment Bohmfalk suggested was to double the per-bedroom fee, from $75 to $150, for non-owner occupied rentals. The change has been accepted.
Kevin Rayes of Community First Carbondale argued that instead of only increasing fees, non-owner occupied STRs should be assessed as commercial units, taxed at 29% currently compared to residential units at 7%.
“Because this is a preliminary settlement,” City Manager Lauren Gister offered, “we’ll find additional details.” She emphasized tolerance for unintended consequences as the city works toward more comprehensive solutions.
“Thank you to everyone who has put in so much time and energy on this,” Mayor Richardson said following a unanimous vote in favor of passing the ordinance.
The meeting ended with Carbondale joining the municipalities of Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Snowmass Village and Aspen, as well as Pitkin County, in a regional housing coalition. The Eagle County Housing and Development Authority and the Garfield County Housing Authority are also invited to become partners.
Administrator Heather Henry touted the proposal as “the dawn of really big change,” thanking the late Bill Lamont, who led the effort with Dave Myler from 2018. Although initially envisioned as a special district with authority tax, the coalition takes a not-for-profit approach first. To sign, Carbondale made a one-time contribution of $10,000 from designated affordable housing funds for the establishment of the nonprofit.
After a COVID-induced hiatus, following the completion of the Greater Roaring Fork Regional Housing Study in 2019, the coalition will use a “Roadmap for Resilience and Recovery” planning grant to prepare for obtaining a share of $450 million in housing funds to be made available by Colorado lawmakers through House Bill 1329, passed in 2021.
“Thank you for the four to five years of work you have put into this project,” administrator Marty Silverstein said. “Somewhere, Bill Lamont is smiling. A dream does not come true without hard work.
In other news…
At their February 24 meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission agreed to another community outreach event for the comprehensive plan update. The additional open house, with Spanish interpretation, is scheduled for Wednesday, March 30, from 6 to 8 p.m. There will be no presentation, just a conversation.