Colorado Association of REALTORS Letter of Support for EPBOR's Position on Vacation Rentals
March 28, 2016
Larimer County Commissioners
Board of Trustees - Town of Estes Park
Mayor William C. Pinkham – Town of Estes Park
RE: Proposed Ordinance 10-16
Commissioners, Trustees and Mayor Pinkham:
The Colorado Association of REALTORS® is in receipt of your proposed Ordinance 10-16. We are writing to confirm our support of the Estes Park Board of REALTORS® in their opposition to the proposed ordinance. As presently offered, Ordinance 10-16 is a significant infringement on private property rights that could potentially have a negative impact on property values and hamper economic development in the Town of Estes Park. In addition, the ordinance may be subject to constitutional challenges based on the denial of equal protection to certain categories of homeowners and tenants.
In its 2016 Strategic Plan, the Town of Estes Park (“Estes Park”) introduces its noble “Vision” for 2016: “The Town of Estes Park will enhance our position as a premier mountain community.” In support of that Vision, Estes Park develops “Key Outcome Areas” that are logically lead by developing and maintaining a “Robust Economy.” In order to develop and maintain a “Robust Economy,” Estes Park’s first goal/commitment is: “We will work to make Town codes and regulations more user-friendly and easier to understand and use, while ensuring they are effective and enforceable and support development.” Ordinance 10-16 is directly at odds with every aspect of Estes Park’s stated goal.
As the drafters of the Strategic Plan acknowledge, maintaining a robust economy is a fundamental aspect of establishing a “premier mountain community.” Tourism is the primary economic driver of Estes Park and access/availability to short-term rentals facilitates tourism and the resulting economic development. To place onerous regulatory hurdles on property owners looking to implement a short-term rental will immediately limit the availability of short-term rentals and ultimately increase the cost of all short-term lodging solutions available to Estes Park’s visitors. This will have a negative impact on Estes Park’s explicitly stated goal of a robust economy in that it will decrease tourism, force visitors to the area to identify more affordable lodging in surrounding communities and thereby limit the revenue seen by all businesses in Estes Park.
Investment in Estes Park
In order to attract and maintain quality investment in any community, basic market principles require some level of consistency in the “rules” that are developed and enforced. This proposed ordinance obliterates currently established zoning and use provisions with regard to a very broad category of property type – residential. The message this ordinance sends to existing and potential real estate owners/investors is that there will be no consistency in the rules that are developed and enforced. That message will create a significant “chill” on the perception of potential buyers in Estes Park as they analyze it against alternative real estate opportunities in other communities.
Private Property Rights
Economic vitality and community interest aside, the proposed ordinance represents a significant infringement on an individual’s private property rights. In good faith, people have made an investment in Estes Park in reliance on the town’s code and their ability to reasonably do things in conformance with that code. This includes a person’s right to use their property as a rental (short-term or otherwise) without new, inconsistent and burdensome barriers to entry. To single out short-term rentals for significant additional regulation is a violation of the private property rights of current and future property owners in the event they currently – or at some point in the future – want to offer their property for lease on a term that is less than the arbitrarily proposed threshold of 30 days.
Finally, the proposed ordinance would also create some concerns related to the constitutional requirements of equal protection. In this case, a “rational basis” is required to treat people differently under the law. As proposed, property owners/landlords would surely be treated differently under the law in the event they were attempting to lease their property to anybody for less than 30 days.
Moreover, an Estes Park tenant with a 10 day lease would be treated differently than an Estes Park tenant with 35 day lease if they wanted to park on the street or utilize a hot tub during certain hours.
This proposed ordinance, which creates disparate treatments for both tenants and landlords may give rise to an equal protection claim against Estes Park because no rational basis exists for treating similar properties and property owners differently.
For all of the foregoing reasons, the Colorado Association of REALTORS® firmly supports the Estes Park Board of REALTORS® in their opposition to Ordinance 10-16. We would strongly encourage the Board of Trustees, County Commissioners and Mayor to seek alternative solutions to any perceived problems created by short-term rentals in Estes Park.
Thank you for your consideration of this letter.
Alan Lovitt, CAR Chair 2015/2016