PINEDALE – The Pinedale Town Council tabled a revised ordinance concerning short-term rentals following a lengthy discussion at its Feb. 22 regular meeting.
The council cited the need to clarify and reword sections of the ordinance before passing it on its first of three readings.
The ordinance was the result of growing concern about short-term rentals existing in residential zoned areas.
Mayor Matt Murdock explained that short-term rentals, including those offered through companies like Airbnb, are not permitted in certain zones under existing ordinances. The proposed ordinance was devised to offer a solution to allow residents to generate revenue from short-term rentals while maintaining the character of the town’s residential neighborhoods, Murdock said.
Decisions regarding commercial activity in residential areas could have long-term consequences to neighborhoods in Pinedale as the local real estate and tourism markets fluctuate, Murdock stated to the council.
The proposed ordinance contained regulations including the number of short-term rentals permitted on a deeded property, occupancy rates and commercial insurance mandates. The rules were meant to minimize potential adverse affects caused by short-term rentals in residential areas, including high turnover rates, Murdock added. Murdock stressed the improved quality of life in stable communities where residents know their neighbors.
The town’s planning and zoning commission took on the task of creating an ordinance and discussed a first draft in January. The commission hosted an open hearing on the proposed ordinance on Feb. 1 attended by approximately 70 people, said Abram Pearce, director of public works. A motion recommending the ordinance passed the P&Z Commission, 4-0.
Pearce told the council that public feedback received during the meeting fell into four camps – protecting individual property rights, allowing short-term rentals with density restrictions, placing additional requirements on short-term rentals in residential zones and restricting short-term rentals to commercial zones and commercial regulations.
Town staff and legal counsel revised the ordinance to reflect public concern and presented a new version to the council on Feb. 22.
A primary item of contention at the council meeting was whether to allow only hosted short-term rentals or expand the ordinance to include non-hosted short-term rentals where the owner does not live on site but is available to respond to issues at their property in a reasonable time.
The P&Z commission’s revised ordinance defined “availability” as an owner living within 30 miles of their short-term rental.
Murdock expressed a desire to limit short-term rentals to hosted facilities where the owner lived on the premises and could supervise the property, decreasing potential conflicts between neighbors. He added that codifying an owner’s availability would complicate the debate with too many different ideas on the definition of an appropriate geographical distance.
Councilman Isaac Best, a member of the P&Z commission, stated that the 30-mile radius was added as a compromise between banning non-hosted short-term rentals and allowing people living anywhere to operate short-term rentals in Pinedale.
Best added that limited commercial activity in residential areas was not unprecedented and did not necessarily alter a neighborhood’s makeup.
In an informal straw poll taken at the end of the meeting, Best, councilwoman Judi Boyce and councilman Tyler Swafford favored non-hosted short-term rentals where the owner lived within 30 miles of the property. Murdock and councilman Dean Loftus favored limiting short-term rentals to hosted sites where the owner lived on the premises.
The council discussed short-term rentals in lots where a primary residence and an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, existed. ADUs are defined by ordinance as a separate, single-family dwelling unit on a residentially zoned lot with its own bathroom and kitchen facilities. ADUs are not permitted in areas zoned R1 under existing ordinances, Pearce said at the meeting.
The council considered different scenarios where property owners could claim that they lived in an ADU and then rented out their primary residence as a short-term rental, or vice-versa. Council members agreed to direct town staff and legal counsel to reword the section on ADUs to make the definition more clear.
Another issue that arose at the meeting involved the legality of a lessee offering a property up as a short-term rental without the owner’s permission. Boyce, a member of the P&Z commission, stated that the commission rejected the idea of allowing tenants to operate short-term rentals. The commission worried that renters tended to put less care into a property than owners, Boyce said.
Best and Boyce added that a larger issues involved in planning the future residential areas in Pinedale was maintaining affordable housing.
Aaron Bailey, a local outfitter, asked when the ordinance would go into effect, stating that many tourist establishments are booked out beyond August and deserve time to adjust to the new codes. Murdock responded that the ordinance would provide a reasonable, phased-in effective date.
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