Council passes ordinance on short-term rentals

PINEDALE – Residents living inside Pinedale town limits may now legally operate short-term rentals on their property following the passage of Ordinance 682 on third and final reading by the Pinedale Town Council at its April 12 meeting.

The amended ordinance, passed by a 3-2 vote, removed the section defining hosted short-term rentals in residential zones as operations where the owner can live within 30 miles of the property.

The ordinance as passed limits short-term rentals in residential areas to properties where the owner must live on site.

Mayor Matt Murdock and councilmembers Judi Boyce and Dean Loftus voted in favor of the motion to adopt the ordinance deleting the 30-mile allowance and containing new language defining limited liability corporations. Councilmen Isaac Best and Tyler Swafford voted against adopting the amended ordinance.

During the previous two readings, the ordinance passed with the 30-mile allowance by a 3-2 vote with Best, Boyce and Swafford in favor and Murdock and Loftus against.

The vote on April 12 came after several hours of intense debate centered on the definition of hosted short-term rentals in residential zones.

Murdock had declared his intention to veto any ordinance permitting short-term rentals without an owner living on site in residential zones.

The mayor’s veto would have kicked the ordinance back to the town planning and zoning committee, involving a redraft, public hearings and three readings before the council. The council could have overridden the veto, but that would require all members voting in favor of the override.

Loftus made the first motion to pass Ordinance 682 with the 30-mile allowance removed. The motion died due to lack a second.

Loftus made the same motion again roughly an hour later. Boyce seconded the motion and became the swing vote with reservation.

The planning and zoning committee worked hard through a long process to listen to arguments from all parties, Boyce said. The 30-mile allowance was a compromise to allow residents across Sublette County with property in Pinedale to operate short-term rentals, Boyce said. Limiting the definition of hosted rentals to the 30-mile radius protected the community from investors outside Sublette County with no stakes in the community from driving up property values and eliminating affordable housing, she said.

Forcing the issue back to the planning and zoning committee by veto would only harm residents making revenue from short-term rentals, including property owners counting on the town’s grace period to book rooms through the summer tourist season, Boyce added. Boyce felt that the mayor’s possible veto pushed her into a difficult decision.

Murdock defended his stance to veto by stating that he was elected mayor to stand up for his principles, including protecting the integrity of residential areas and affordable housing for families in Pinedale.

Murdock and Loftus agreed that the 30-mile allowance set a precedent for property owners to claim discrimination and pressure future town councils to broaden the definition. Murdock worried that “once the genie was let out of the bottle,” investors and companies could snatch up properties across Pinedale and turn them into short-term rentals, driving up housing prices for young and working families.

Swafford argued that, in reality, most people did not live in the short-term properties that they rented out. Limiting short-term rentals to onsite only was a backhanded way of not allowing short-term rentals in residential areas, impacting property rights in Pinedale, he added.

Despite existing town ordinances prohibiting short-term rentals, the properties still existed and had yet to damage Pinedale, Swafford said. Enforcement on short-term rentals was nonexistent.

Best believed that individual property rights were the foundation of a functioning society. Attempting to separate raising revenue from short-term rentals as different from revenue generated by long-term rentals did not make sense and had no basis in reality.

Best and Swafford said that the real estate market in Pinedale was influenced by numerous factors beyond the existence of short-term rentals. Prices would continue to fluctuate whether hosted or non-hosted short-term rentals were allowed, said Swafford.



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