If you read the Herald Democrat last week, you know that Leadville City Council adopted revisions to the city’s short-term rental ordinance earlier this month. The revised ordinance offers smart changes to Leadville’s short-term rental licensing program — revisions that will better protect our housing stock for local workers in years to come.

The City of Leadville first launched its short-term rental (STR) licensing program in summer of 2019 after nearly a year of research, public input and ordinance drafts. But the program faced shortcomings in its first year of operation.

Enforcement placed a burden the city’s small administrative staff, homeowners found the application process confusing, concerns over affordable housing persisted, and residents continued to report long-standing issues associated with STRs such as parking violations and noise.

The revised ordinance addresses each of these issues with three major changes.

First off, the number of STR licenses available within city limits can no longer exceed 12% of the total available housing stock. The cap only applies to STR properties not inhabited by the owner and owner-occupied rentals with more than one STR unit.

Secondly, properties with two or more STR units must now apply for a conditional use permit (CUP) from the city. The CUP process will allow for increased oversight of parking, trash removal and more.

Lastly, the application process is now more straightforward. There are only two licenses available, both of which cost $325 annually. The class one license is for owner-occupied STRs; the class two license is for STRs that do not serve as a primary residence.

Short-term rentals are a contentious topic in mountain communities across Colorado. Every city handles it differently.

Durango, for example, only grants STR licenses in certain city zones, capping the number of rentals allowed in permissible residential neighborhoods to maintain their character. Other cities, like Crested Butte, utilize expensive license fees in an effort to curb demand. A first year STR license in Crested Butte costs $1,500. And some towns, like Breckenridge, run a licensing program but do not limit the number of STRs.

Leadville’s new and improved short-term rental ordinance strikes a nice balance — it’s neither the strictest nor most lenient policy in the state.

The $325 fee for all STR licenses will allow the city to pay LODGINGRevs, a vacation rental compliance company, to administer the licensing program from afar. And the CUP process will help homeowners who wish to rent multiple STR units do so without negatively impacting neighbors.

Though the city will not know exact numbers until later this spring, the 12% cap will likely leave room for Leadville’s STR industry to grow slightly. And the ordinance prioritizes Leadville residents by allowing locals who wish to rent a singular STR unit on the property they inhabit to do so without a cap.

It is likely that the city’s STR ordinance will see more revisions in future years. The policy is a work in progress and this year’s changes are a good start.

Rachel Woolworth

Herald Editor

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